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Why is Driver Inattention a Leading Cause of Teen-Related Car Accidents?

September 6, 2021

Driver Inattention

Many studies show that teenagers are more likely to be involved in a car accident than any other age group. Many teen-related car accidents result from driver inattention, also known as distracted driving, which is a very preventable cause.

According to a 2015 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 58 percent of car accidents involving teenage drivers were caused by distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined as anything that takes a motorist’s hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or mind off driving. Teenagers are often distracted in the car because of their inexperience and reckless nature.

Cellphone Use

Even though every state has laws against using cellphones while driving, it is still a common occurrence. A 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that nearly 40 percent of high school students had texted or emailed on their phones while behind the wheel at least once in the past 30 days.

Cellphone use includes talking, texting, emailing, watching videos, looking at photographs, taking pictures, and entering directions into a navigation device. The bottom line is that a cellphone is good to have in the car in case of an emergency, but it should never be the cause of an accident.

Coincidentally, some studies indicate that responding to calls or texts from a parent is among the leading cellphone uses by teenagers. Parents should consider not calling or texting when they know their teenager is driving.

Passenger Interaction

Having one or more passengers in the car is a huge cause of teenage driving inattention and accidents. That is why most states, including Virginia, have laws regarding how many passengers a newly licensed teenage driver can have in their car. For example, Virginia allows drivers who are 17 years old and under to have just one passenger in the car with them.

It is easy to understand the need for limitations. Passengers can be noisy, and they could distract the driver with horseplay. The fewer teenagers in a car, the better, especially with an inexperienced motorist.

What Else Causes Teen-Related Car Accidents?

Listed below are common causes of teen-related car accidents.

Not Using the Seat Belt

Studies show that teenagers and young adults have the lowest seat belt use rates, even though it is proven that seat belts save lives. Each year, many people, including teenage drivers, are injured or killed in car accidents because they were not wearing their seat belt.


It takes many hours of driving time for a teenager to experience various situations and become confident and skilled behind the wheel. Inexperienced drivers may not always recognize risky conditions, such as icy roads or sudden merges, that call for more careful driving. Their inexperience can lead to poor decisions and accidents.

Reckless Driving

Teenage drivers, either through ignorance or disregard for the rules, may speed, tailgate, change lanes dangerously, or otherwise drive recklessly. Speeding is a top cause of teenage driving accidents. The combination of reckless driving and inexperience can be fatal.

Weekend and Nighttime Driving

Virginia imposes a curfew for teenage drivers. Those under 18 years old cannot drive between midnight and 4:00 a.m. unless they are:

  • Driving to or back home from work or an organized activity, such as a school event or church.
  • Driving with a guardian in the passenger seat, who holds a valid driver’s license and is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Responding to an emergency, such as taking someone with an immediate medical problem to the hospital.

Alcohol and Drug Use

Laws and campaigns against impaired driving are essential but not fail-safe. Despite being illegal, alcohol and drug use while driving is still a reason for teenage car accidents. Impaired driving at any age can lead to severe accidents, but especially among teenagers.

Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving occurs among people of all ages, but especially teenagers. Teenagers may be especially sleepy in the early morning or late at night. Falling asleep behind the wheel can happen in an instant, with grave consequences.

Being Overconfident

Sometimes, teenagers can feel invincible, which may cause them to be overconfident about their driving skills. They may want to show off and may drive recklessly or speed.

How can Parents Keep Teenage Drivers Safe?

Parents play an important role in their teenager’s driving experience and safety. You cannot be with your child in every situation, but being an active advocate for safety can help them become a responsible driver.

Be a Role Model

Practice safe driving behaviors, including courteous driving, when your teenager is in the car with you. Tell them why you took specific actions while driving to help them better understand various situations. Talk about driving safety at home as much as possible.

Seat Belt Use is Not a Choice

Make it clear to your teenager that there is no wiggle room when it comes to wearing a seat belt and requiring passengers to wear them, too. Repeat this conversation as many times as you can, and state consequences for not wearing a seat belt. Drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt by law in every single state.

Restrict Driving Times

Since most accidents happen on nights and weekends, your teenager should limit their driving during those hours. After they get more experience, you can consider slowly extending the curfew.

Limit Passengers

Virginia’s laws limit passengers for drivers 18 years old and under. Stress those laws, and make your own rules about having other teenagers in the car. Remind your teenager that they are responsible for someone else’s life when they have a passenger.

No Alcohol or Drugs

There are serious consequences for a teenage driver who is caught driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Impaired driving can affect many road users.

Practice with Them

Parents can help their teenage drivers by letting them practice as much as possible. Take them on road trips, and consider driving with them in adverse weather conditions to help them learn how to maneuver safely.

Ban Cellphone Use

In addition to being illegal in Virginia, cellphone use is a major distraction for an inexperienced teenage driver. One quick glance at a text can lead to a serious injury or a fatal accident. Banning cellphones should be a non-negotiable rule for your teenage driver, with consequences.

State the Consequences

Teenage drivers need to know why they should follow the rules and what will happen if they do not. State and implement consequences consistently. Follow through on disciplinary measures; they need to know you are serious.

Employ Safety Features

Many modern cars come with built-in safety features, such as lane change assist, automatic braking and steering, and others. Teach your teenage driver how to use and react to their car’s safety warnings.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Help Those Injured by Distracted Drivers

Driver inattention is a top cause of teen-related car accidents. If you were injured by a distracted driver, contact one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers today. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we protect the rights of those injured by negligent drivers. Call us today at 757-352-2237 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910