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Auto Attorney: Is Your Teen Driver Safe?

October 1, 2009 by Steven M. Gursten

Young drivers account for more than one-third of all car accidents. To put that into perspective, drivers ages 16-24 were involved more than 34 percent of all traffic crashes last year, according to SEMCOG. This fact came as no surprise to me, because as an auto accident attorney, I sadly see car crashes at the hands of teen drivers on a regular basis.

Just last month, we received a $2 million jury verdict in Lenawee County for a client who was hit by a teenager with a car full of girlfriends. The teen was speeding and trying to pass our client’s truck on the gravel shoulder, because she didn’t want to wait a couple of extra seconds for traffic to clear.

The magnitude of this auto accident was huge: Our client had to be removed from his vehicle by the Jaws of Life and flown by helicopter to the hospital for his serious traumatic brain injury and shoulder injuries. The girl who caused the accident spent 30 days in jail for felony reckless driving. This case puts a face on a few more startling statistics I’d like to share on teenage driving:

o When your teenager has a friend in the passenger seat, the risk of a fatal car accident doubles.

o When there are three or more passengers in the car, that teen driver’s risk of a fatal auto accident is three times higher than if he or she is driving alone.

o Teenage drivers are more inclined to speed and make bad driving decisions when there are other young adults in the vehicle.

o More than half of all deaths in crashes of 16- and 17-year-old drivers occur when passengers younger than 20 years old are in the car, and when no adults are present.

Michigan Owners Liability

What some people don’t fully realize is that a car full of teenagers creates risks for parents as well. In Michigan, we have an Owners Liability Statute. If you let someone else drive your car, whether that person is a friend, family member or stranger, you are legally – and financially – responsible if a serious car accident occurs. In other words, the owner of a motor vehicle is responsible as well as the negligent driver.

It’s never a good idea to lend your keys to someone you do not know well, but it is especially unwise to lend your car to a teenager or young adult driver, especially when that young driver is statistically much more likely to cause a car accident.

Michigan law presumes that if a spouse, father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or other immediate member of the family is driving, that you gave permission to that person to drive the vehicle. Again, if that son or daughter lets one of their friends drive your car, you will be legally responsible for the harms that are caused.

Meanwhile, here are some tips on safe driving to consider. You can also read this checklist to prepare yourself in the event of a car accident. It has more safe driving tips, auto insurance advice and a list of items to keep in your vehicle at all times.

If you have been in an auto accident and a teenage driver was involved, our attorneys can help you. Please call Michigan Auto Law at (800) 968-1001 for a free case evaluation.

Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information:

Michigan Driver’s Rights: Driving Another Person’s Car

Michigan Driver’s Rights: Driving Passengers

What do to Following an Auto Accident in Michigan

How to Read Your Auto Insurance Policy

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights.

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