Category Archives: Teen Drivers

What is the law on texting and driving in West Virginia?

As of right now, unlike other states, texting and driving is not illegal in West Virginia.  However, for drivers under the age of 18, cell phone use while driving is illegal, which includes texting.  There is legislation currently under consideration in WV which would make texting and driving a traffic infraction.  However, it has not yet been adopted, partially because it also criminalizes texting while parked in traffic.  There was recently an article in the Charleston Gazette on the legislation, which included some of the following information:

As drafted, texting while driving would be a primary offense — meaning that police officers could pull over drivers for texting, without observing any other traffic violations. However, there would be no court costs or driver’s license points assessed for a conviction.

Under the bill, drivers who pull over to the side of the road to read or send text messages would not be in violation of the law.

However, as currently drafted, drivers could be cited for texting while on a roadway, even if they were stuck in a traffic backup, and their vehicles were not moving.

Both nationally and in West Virginia, texting and driving is a substantial cause of serious injury and death in car wrecks.  Essentially, texting and driving is driving while distracted.  The federal government actually has a website which informs people about the dangers of distracted driving.  It contains some of the following information:

Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising facts:

  • 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).
  • Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)
  • The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

Police-reported data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling show that:

  • In 2009, there were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States, which involved 45,230 drivers. In those crashes 33,808 people died.
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
  • The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
  • The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
  • The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group – 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
  • Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
  • Light-truck drivers and motorcyclists had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crash (12% each). Bus drivers had the lowest percentage (6%) of total drivers involved in fatal crashes that were reported as distraction-related.
  • An estimated 20 percent of 1,517,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009.

The National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) is a nationally representative survey specifically focused toward documenting events and conditions leading up to crashes.

  • NMVCCS captures distraction as an associated factor to the crash and/or as the critical reason that made the crash imminent. Driver distraction was coded as the critical reason in 18 percent of the crashes. Data describing the specifics of the distraction — for example adjusting the radio or eating — are included in this data set.

Another method for collecting pre-crash data is through naturalistic driving studies, in which vehicles are equipped with cameras and data recording equipment.

  • During NHTSA’s 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, driver involvement in secondary tasks contributed to more than 22 percent of all crashes and near-crashes recorded during the study period.

Data Sources

The following NHTSA data sources were used in the research:

  • Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
  • National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES)
  • National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS)
  • The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study
  • National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) of Driver Electronic Use
  • Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS)

Please understand that although texting and driving is not yet a traffic infraction in West Virginia, it is punishable through civil liability in a personal injury lawsuit.  One of the first things we do as WV car wreck attorneys is to subpoena cell phone information for drivers who may have been using cell phones at the time of the car accident.  In close liability situations this can seal the deal.  In other situations, it helps ensure that our clients cannot be threatened with potential liability issues at trial.

West Virginia Roads are Deadly for Young Drivers

There was a report just released from the federal government indicating that younger drivers are more likely to die on West Virginia roads than anywhere else in the country. According to an article on WSAZ.com, statistics show that West Virginia’s death rate among younger drivers was 70 percent higher than the national average. Thirty six West Virginians between the ages of 16 and 20 died in crashes in 2006.

The article notes that “experts say traffic fatalities are twice as high in rural areas where drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seat belts.”

I think those are two factors involved, but not the only ones. A reporter called me today and asked me what I thought were the main reasons for this problem. I responded that I think that younger drivers are reckless drivers no matter what state you are in. But when you put them on windy, mountain roads with no enforcement of the speed limit, you are asking for disaster. And that is my theory at least, about why the young fatalities are so high on West Virginia roads. But certainly the advent of new cell phone technologies and their 24/7 usage by younger persons is playing a part as well.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney

New Study Shows Importance of Seat Belts, Nationally and for West Virginia

The Associated Press published an article yesterday, a copy of which appeared in the hard copy of the Register-Herald:

More than two-thirds of young drivers and passengers killed in nighttime car crashes aren’t wearing seat belts — deadly proof of what can happen when young people don’t heed parents’ pleas and authorities’ threats to “click it.”

Though seat-belt use actually is rising slightly nationwide, fatality figures published Monday offered a somber contrast as law enforcement launched its annual pre-Memorial Day drive to persuade Americans to buckle up.

Total belt use rose to 82 percent last year — from 81 percent in 2006 — the government said. Twelve states had rates of 90 percent or better, led by Hawaii and Washington. Only three were below 70 percent: Arkansas, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. West Virginia was ranked between 85% and 90%, which is well above the national average of 82%. But the study was hardly encouraging.

Sixty-eight percent of drivers and passengers between the ages of 16 and 20 who were killed in car crashes at night in 2006 were unbuckled, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During daytime, 57 percent of the young motorists and passengers who were killed were not wearing seat belts.

The problem isn’t just with teens. The percentage of unbuckled drivers and passengers who died at night is well up in the 60s through the age of 44. It declines to 52 percent for people 55-64 and 41 percent for those older than that.

The problem still remains however, that when you combine carloads of teens, with inexperience and poor judgment, the result is often disastrous, especially in West Virginia with our winding roads. I am reminded of a car wreck that took place on the border of Monroe County and Greenbrier County not too long ago, where a car load of teenagers were killed as the result of excessive speed, poor vehicle maintenance, and unbuckled seat belts.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

Tragedy Often Strikes on Prom Night – 12 Tips For Teens Driving on Prom Night

A tragic story from the Associated Press, as carried by the Charleston Daily Mail:

A Northern California mother is dealing with a double tragedy after her daughter was killed during a weekend prom date and her son was severely injured in a car crash. Jennifer Carrigan and Steven Furtado were found dead Sunday by Carrigan’s mother at a house in Chester, about 150 miles north of Sacramento. Both were 18.

When told of his sister’s death, 20-year-old Billy Carrigan headed home from Berkeley. Shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, just before he reached Chester, Billy Carrigan crashed his Toyota Tacoma pickup truck into a stand of pine trees along Highway 36.

Read the entire article here.

The article did not mention how or why the daughter was killed, but it is a tragic story and it is one of dozens each year that illustrate the dangers of teen drivers – especially on prom night. Sadly, every year Americans hear reports of prom-goers getting into car accidents as a result of drinking and driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has worked passionately since 1980 to lower these statistics. It’s been a successful campaign, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which reports that drinking and driving among teens dropped 35% from 1990 to 2005.

Nationwide insurance company published a list of 12 tips for driving on prom night that every teen should read:

For teens:

– Always wear your seatbelt and make sure everyone in the car does, too.

– Concentrate and drive defensively. There are likely to be a lot of impaired drivers on the road prom night.

– Have directions to the dance — even drive by the location during daylight hours — if the prom is not held at your school so you know where you’re going.

– Understand that the average vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds. It may be easy to drive, but it’s still a heavy hunk of metal.

– Never allow someone who has been drinking to drive, no matter how confident the driver is about his abilities. It’s not worth the risk.

– Remember that tired drivers are dangerous, too. If you’re barely awake, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

– Call home to get a ride. No matter what time it is, parents would rather pick you up than have you drive in a dangerous situation.

– Take your cell phone to prom so you have one in case of emergency.

– Take a spare pair of comfortable shoes with you for driving so you don’t have to hit the brakes while wearing unfamiliar high heels or bulky dress shoes.

And for parents:

– Make sure you know where your child is going to be during prom and at the after-prom parties.

– Don’t allow too many prom-goers into one vehicle. (More passengers means more distractions.)

– Consider a limo or an adult driver to chauffeur students — someone who has more experience driving at night and someone who is not hopped up on prom night adrenaline.

Read the entire publication here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.