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Teenage Drivers and Safety-Belt Use

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 11-Jul-2012

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

The leading cause of death for teenagers is motor vehicle crashes.  Although teens are taught the importance of safety-belts in driver’s education classes, one of the major reasons for deaths as well as serious injuries among teens is lack of safety-belt use.  According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), more than two-thirds of teen occupants killed in crashes were not wearing safety-belts.

Studies show that the rate of seat-belt use by teens is consistently lower than that of older drivers and passengers.   Several theories offer reasons why teens have low safety-belt use rates and high traffic-crash rates:

  • Inexperience – Lack of firsthand experience driving prevents teens from knowing how to drive under various circumstances and how to react in emergency situations.
  • Immaturity – Engaging in riskier behaviors while driving is evident among teen drivers.
  • Immortality – Teens tend to under-estimate risks of driving and crashing.
  • Emotionality – Teen emotions are frequently near the surface and affect their thinking and behavior.
  • Sensation Seeking – Many teens are adventurous and seek excitement through dangerous activity.
  • Risk Taking – Lack of understanding of risks involved in certain behaviors frequently leads to impulsive actions.
  • Power of Friends – Peer pressure influences teens in many areas of their lives.
  • Power of Parents – Parental permissiveness or strictness is a factor in teen behavior.
  • Distractions – Evidence indicates that teens are more easily distracted while driving, especially when they have other teen passengers.

NHTSA’s Integrated Project Teams Report (IPT) on Initiatives to Address Safety Belt Use discusses various approaches to addressing safety-belt usage in general. Listed below are those considered most likely to have the potential to increase teen safety-belt use.

  • Primary safety-belt use laws (allows for police offices to pull over and ticket drivers for safety-belt violations),
  • High-visibility enforcement (STEPS, Click It or Ticket, etc.),
  • Increased sanctions (increased fines, points on license),
  • Incentive programs (high school rewards programs, insurance incentives),
  • Parental management (number of passengers, curfews),
  • School and employer policies,
  • Vehicle strategies (safety-belt use monitoring devices, ignition interlock devices), and
  • Other public health interventions.

Obtaining a driver’s license is a landmark event in any teen’s life.  Although campaigns, incentives and punishments may be effective in promoting safety-belt use, the driver is given the ultimate responsibility for promoting the use of safety-belts.  Please take that responsibility seriously. 

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About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him "Trial Lawyer of the Year" (2011). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 1%" of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by Best Lawyers (2012 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyer magazine (March/April 2012)– national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.

 

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