Learning to drive is an important right of passage for most teenagers. It’s an exciting time filled with new freedoms and responsibility, so it’s imperative that these drivers are well-versed in young driver safety. This guide will explain safe driving techniques to help avoid accidents and what young drivers should do if they are involved in a crash.
The Pennsylvania Licensing Program
PA has a graduated program of licenses and each stage has its own requirements and restrictions. Pennsylvania’s DMV website goes into further detail about how to apply for these permits and licenses as well as driver’s education information.
Junior learner’s permit—A junior learner’s permit requires you to be at least 16 years old and drive while supervised by someone who is at least 21 years old. During this time, you need to log 65 hours of practice driving in order to apply for a junior driver’s license. This time needs to include 5 hours of driving in bad weather conditions as well as 10 hours of driving at night. A parent or guardian will need to confirm that these hours were completed with the Parent or Guardian Certification Form. After logging these hours and holding a learner’s permit for 6 months, the next step is to apply for a junior driver’s license.
Junior driver’s license—In order to receive a junior driver’s license after completing the learner’s permit stage, you need to pass the driving exam. With this license, you can drive unsupervised except between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. In the first six months of holding the license, you may only have one passenger in the vehicle under 18, and after six months this is raised to three passengers.
Senior driver’s license—After holding a junior driver’s license for one year, you may receive a senior driver’s license. When you turn 18, your license automatically updates from junior to senior, but you may apply for a senior license at 17 and a half. In order to do so, you must complete a driver’s education course, obtain parent or guardian approval, hold your junior license for one year, and have no at-fault accidents or driving violations for a year. Some young drivers may prefer to obtain a senior driver’s license for a variety of reasons, and it’s very important to be well-educated on young driver safety and the rules of the road before doing so.
Young Driver Safety Precautions
According to PennDOT’s 2017 Crash Facts & Statistics Report, drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 accounted for nearly 25% of all people involved in car accidents last year. The following young driver safety precautions can help young people avoid being a part of this statistic.
Lower the volume—Listening to music or podcasts in the car is fine as long as it doesn’t disrupt the driver’s attention. Keeping the volume low will allow you to focus on the road and listen for sounds like honking horns and sirens. When a person begins driving, they shouldn’t listen to anything at first and work their way up to being comfortable enough to have background noise.
Follow the rules of the license—There are reasons behind the restrictions of learner’s permits and junior driver’s licenses. Driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unsupervised is more dangerous for new drivers than experienced ones and having too many passengers in the car is a major distraction for young people. These rules encourage young driver safety, so it’s important to follow the limits that correspond with your permit or license.
Communicate—It’s a good idea for young drivers to tell their parents when they arrive at their destination and when they will be home. This way the parent is aware of their child’s location and reassured of their safety.
Put the phone away—Young people may be tempted to check every message they receive, even when behind the wheel. Phones should be kept on “do not disturb” mode while a young person is driving and only in sight if being used for navigation purposes. Never take your hands off the wheel to use the phone while the car is in motion and keep your eyes on the road.
Gradually expand limits—As a new driver becomes more comfortable with their abilities, they can begin to drive longer distances and for a longer time. This should be done gradually and at the discretion of a parent or guardian.
Follow the law—All drivers may feel like they can get away with breaking a law, but young people tend to be especially impulsive. Driving laws are in place to protect everyone on the road, and it’s crucial that young drivers never disregard rules like going the speed limit, wearing a seatbelt, not driving under the influence, and using their headlights.
Drive supervised—Just because a young person has a license that allows them to drive unsupervised does not mean they can’t continue to be monitored on occasion. Driving with a responsible adult from time to time will ensure a new driver is following the rules of the road, becoming a better driver, and taking their responsibility seriously.
Set an example—As a parent, you should be setting an example for your child. If you follow proper safety precautions while driving, they will be more likely to pick up on those good habits.
What Should Young Drivers Do After Being in an Accident?
Nearly every driver will eventually be involved in a collision, and as mentioned before, young drivers are especially susceptible. If a young driver has been in an accident, they should follow these steps.
Pull over—It’s important to drive to the side of the road in order to get to safety and stop disrupting the flow of traffic.
Call 911—In order to get the police and medical professionals to the scene, call 911. The police will provide an accident report which will summarize the events of the crash and a medical team will be able to evaluate injuries and provide necessary treatment.
Exchange insurance information—Always drive with your license and insurance information in case you are in an accident so that you can exchange it with the other driver involved. Ask the police officer on the scene if they can make physical copies of this information so it’s easier to swap and keep safe.
Take photos—Photos of the scene and the vehicles will act as evidence and corroborate your claim. Backing up the details of the incident with visuals is very helpful when building a case.
A Trusted Personal Injury Lawyer for Young Drivers
Even if your child diligently practices young driver safety, they may be involved in an accident by no fault of their own. If your child has been injured in an auto accident, enlist the help of a trusted personal injury lawyer. At Donaghue and Labrum, we have decades of experience helping victims receive the compensation they deserve. Don’t hesitate—contact us today to set up a free consultation!