Teenage driver | Personal injury | High Swartz

Teen driver safety in Pennsylvania

As a personal injury lawyer who recently represented a teen driver who had received a traffic citation, I was presented with a letter she had received from the Secretary of Transportation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania covering traffic laws and driver safety.

In that thoughtful letter, the Secretary of Transportation reminded her that “personal responsibility and knowledge of our traffic laws are major parts of [being] a safe driver.”

It was further noted that:

  • a traffic violation doubles your risk for being involved in a car crash
  • at highway speeds, your car travels the length of a football field in a couple of seconds
  • a moment of carelessness or distraction can quickly become a tragedy
  • not paying attention to the road or careless decisions while driving can cause serious injuries or death to you and to those around you
  • car crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 20 year olds

My client’s parents were asked to encourage their teenage driver to improve her driving performance in the future and were also reminded that they had the right to withdraw consent of their young driver’s license until the age of 18!

The letter also directed us to additional traffic and driver safety information which can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) website. There, one can find a great deal of interesting, although often quite disturbing, details. I would encourage you to visit that site when you have some free time on your hands, but I will share some of those statistics with you now.

However, before we focus on traffic crash figures, I have one question, the answer to which you will find at the end of this blog. In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 2,500 municipalities throughout the 67 counties, but which is the only official “town?”

Traffic and driver safety statistics in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s website reported that, in 2015, there were traffic-related deaths in Pennsylvania arising from various circumstances, including:

  • 459 fatalities involving hitting a fixed object
  • 413 fatalities involving unrestrained occupants of a motor vehicle
  • 306 fatalities involving drinking drivers
  • 179 motorcycle fatalities
  • 153 pedestrian fatalities
  • 119 fatalities involving aggressive drivers
  • 66 fatalities involving distracted drivers
  • 23 fatalities in work zones

PennDOT has also published a booklet of 2017 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics which contains the following information:

  • Pennsylvania has over 120,000 miles of roads and highways
  • In 2016, there were approximately 101.1 billion vehicle miles of travel on those roads and highways

In its “Overview,” the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation notes that (based on 2017 data), on average, each day:

  • 351 reportable traffic crashes occur (about 15 per hour)
  • 3 persons are fatally injured in traffic crashes (one every 8 hours)
  • 221 persons are injured in reportable crashes (about 9 per hour)

Based upon Pennsylvania’s population in 2017 (12,805,537), this would mean that:

  • 1 out of every 44 people was involved in a reportable traffic crash
  • 1 out of every 11,263 people was fatally injured in a crash
  • 1 out of every 159 people was injured in a crash

Teen and young driver safety statistics in Pennsylvania

PennDOT reports that, in most age groups, male drivers are involved in more crashes than female drivers. In fact, male drivers aged 21 to 25 were involved in more crashes than drivers in any other age group—male or female. Regrettably, in that age group, 31% of all driver fatalities were drivers who had been drinking.

It was also noted that, although adverse weather and road conditions negatively affect vehicle handling and driver sight, the vast majority (80.2%) of all crashes occurred under no adverse conditions. This has been attributed to:

  1. the fact that weather and roads are clear and dry most of the time; and
  2. the reality that drivers fail to use caution under even optimal road conditions. It is also reported that more crashes occur during daylight (probably because there are more vehicles on the road at this time).

As the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation points out, every traffic crash involves 3 different elements:  the driver, the roadway, and the vehicle. It is reported nationally that 85-90% of all traffic crashes involve some sort of driver error which contributes to the crash. Of all the different age groups represented, the teen driver is one that stands out most. Teen drivers (age 16 to 21) are not only the least experienced drivers, but they are also prone to what has been described as “overzealous” driving. Again, 18% of the driver fatalities in the 16 to 20 age group were drinking drivers.

We are now in and approaching that time of year when most traffic crashes occur—October, November, December, and January. More crashes occur on Friday and Saturday and the number of fatalities which occur on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) is proportionately greater than the number of crashes (which could be attributed to alcohol use).

So, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves—and also our teen drivers—of the importance of being safe in order to avoid being sorry.

Toward that end, PennDOT offers the following tips for teen drivers:

  • always wear your seat belt
  • do not eat or drink while driving
  • do not talk or text on your cellphone while driving
  • obey the speed limit—driving too fast gives one less time to react
  • adjust radio and climate controls before beginning your trip
  • leave early—give yourself plenty of time to get there
  • expect the unexpected—you never know what might happen
  • and many others

We certainly hope you never face a traffic crash or a situation involving serious injury as a result of a motor vehicle collision or otherwise.

However, if this does occur, please be sure to contact myself, Eric Marttila, or one of our experienced personal injury lawyers—located in the greater Philadelphia area—to fully explore your legal options and to seek all available remedies to be made whole.

By the way, the Town of Bloomsburg in Columbia County is the only official “town” in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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