Distracted Drivers: Teens, Phones and Accident Liability

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Today, cell phones have become indispensable and for most teenagers, their phones are almost always permanently attached to their hands. This means that teens are more likely to talk or text on their cell phone even while walking, eating, and yes, even driving.

Statistics proves this – according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as much as 20 percent of all car crashes in 2009 involved distracted drivers and of these, 18 percent of those killed involved reports of cell phone use prior to the accident. Figures further show that drivers under the age of 20 years old compromised the greatest proportion of distracted drivers.

Accidents Resulting in Death

Motor vehicle accidents are actually the leading cause of death for U.S. teens – and with more teenagers who text or talk on their cell phones while driving, the risk of getting into a crash is exponentially increased.

Many people however, underestimate, if not outright scoff at the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. People often feel that they are capable of multi-tasking and that the use of handheld devices aren’t that much of a distraction or a danger compared to drunk driving.

The Numbers

But experts disagree. According to the University of Utah, cell phone use while driving regardless of whether it’s handheld or through a hands-free device, can impair a driver’s reactions and skills as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. This means that a driver who’s texting or talking is the same as a legally drunk driver. Also, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has reported that drivers who use handheld devices are 4 times more likely to get into serious accidents that can cause injury to themselves and other motorists.

Personal Injury Liability for Parents

This is why it is important for parents to step up at this point. It is recommended by the authorities that parents with a newly licensed teen or a teen driver should have a proper talk with their children regarding the dangers and consequences of texting or talking while driving. After all, when a motor vehicle accident occurs, it is the parents who will have to shoulder the responsibility of their teen’s actions.

Payouts for Injury Caused by Minors

For example, if a teen caused a crash that injured another motorist, as teens have no assets of their own, a car accident lawyer would often go after the parents of the teen for payment of damages or compensation. Also, even if your teen’s car is coverage by insurance, aside from having to shell out higher premiums, if the accident caused by a distracted teen is severe, parents would have to pay out of their own pockets to reimburse the injured party.


Here are some of the ways suggested by the Department of Transportation, on how parents can minimize teen distracted driving:

  • Be a good example for your teen driver. It is elementary that children learn from their parents so if you avoid texting or talking while driving in front of them or drive safely and obey traffic rules and regulations, then they are also likely to do the same thing when it is their turn to take the wheel.
  • Communicate with your teen about the responsibilities of driving and the dangers of being a distracted driver. You can even share articles like this to emphasize the importance of not texting and talking while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Make it a household rule to not text and drive. You can also impose appropriate penalties for breaking the rules such as grounding your teen or talking away driving privileges.

Legal Issues and Advice

If a minor is involved in an accident, liability for damages, both property damages and personal injury damages can often rest squarely on the parents of the child responsible. Always get legal advice from a personal injury lawyer experienced in dealing with car accidents caused by minors.