Tips for Parents with Teen Drivers & the Junior Operator Law in Massachusetts

I was recently asked by friends of mine for any tips I would suggest for their family and teen driver, who recently got his driver’s license. This was a great question and something all families with teen drivers should think about, especially with the nice weather and summer approaching.

Did you know, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers. With a title like this, it is always wise to review some safe driving tips and habits with your young driver. It can help them avoid serious accidents, injuries and even a fatal accident.

Statistics for Teen Drivers that are Alarming

The statistics on teen drivers are alarming, which is why all parents with teen drivers should consider how to help young drivers stay safe and protect their families. As stated above, the days and weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers. This title is due to the increase in the average number of deadly teen driver crashes during this time period according to AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety. It is reported that fatal teen driver accidents increase by 15 percent compared to the rest of the year.

AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety found that new teen drivers ages 16 to 17 years old are three times more likely than adults to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident. In fact, statistics establish that traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in Massachusetts and across the country.  In 2015, drivers age 20 or younger accounted for 8% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in Massachusetts. Over the past five years, in the U.S. more than 1,600 people were killed in crashes involving inexperienced teen drivers during this time.

Junior Operator Law in Massachusetts for Teen Drivers

In Massachusetts, the Junior Operator License law was enacted in 2007. This law is designed to protect and help young drivers. It aims at providing adequate training for teens before they obtain their full driver’s license and also creates responsibilities and restrictions for young drivers to help them try to avoid dangerous situations, such as a fatal car crash.

This Junior Operator Law creates a number of restrictions for young drivers. The restrictions are designed to reduce the probabilities of accidents by decreasing distractions and the ability to drive during certain hours of the day, which are considered the most dangerous hours for young drivers. Two very important restrictions are:

  • Passengers: A Junior Operator is prevented from driving with passengers under the age of 18 (except for siblings) during the first six months that the driver has his/her license.
  • Nighttime: There is a night restriction, which prevents a young driver from operating a motor vehicle between the hours of 12:30am and 5:00am. The Junior Operator can, however, drive during these hours if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The law was designed to decrease distractions by passengers for the young drivers. We all remember being a teen and how fun (and sometimes reckless) it was, especially when we were with our teen friends. Preventing passengers will help Junior Operators focus on the road and the responsibilities of safe driving.  The nighttime restriction aims at decreasing accidents by young drivers during the late hours / early morning hours, which have been shown to be more dangerous for drivers. This is due to drowsy driving and the chance of more risky driving due to less cars being on the road.

There are penalties for young drivers who violate the restrictions set forth in the Junior Operator Law.  The penalties range from fines and loss of the driving privileges. For example, a violation of either of the above restrictions will result in the license suspension for 60 days.

Tips to Help Junior Operators Stay Safe and How to Protect Your Family

Most tips to help keep our young drivers safe on the road seem like common sense. But, it is always good to review them. Here are some important ones:

  • Put Down the Cell Phone! Make sure you talk to your teen driver about not using the cell phone while driving. Remind them that it’s not only you that prohibits this, but it is the law in Massachusetts. The Safe Driver Law, which was enacted in 2010, prevents all drivers under the age of 18 from using cell phones while operating a car. Cell phone use causes distracted driving, which has been shown to significantly increase the chances of serious accidents and injuries.
  • Make sure your young driver knows about the restrictions in the Junior Operator Law in Massachusetts. The passenger and nighttime restrictions are aimed to help prevent accidents, injuries and death. Don’t allow your child to violate these restrictions, even if it is convenient for you or your family and friends. Some parents may think it is no big deal to let their child drive a friend home from school. But, statistics show that teens can be distracted by their peers when driving and it can lead to serious crashes. Also, your young driver can lose their license for violating these restrictions.
  • Talk to teens about wearing their seatbelts. Teens do not always use seatbelts when driving and the consequences can be deadly.  In 2013, it was reported that more than half of teens killed in crashes in the United States weren’t wearing seat belts. In the personal injury cases we handle from car accidents, we often see young drivers suffer serious injuries when not using their seatbelts. It is a fact that seatbelts help keep drivers and passengers safe. Make sure they know that they must always wear their seatbelts.  
  • Review your auto insurance policies and coverage. You should make sure that your auto insurance policy has enough coverage for bodily injury to others as well as uninsured and underinsured coverage. If your young driver makes a mistake and causes an accident, you want to be sure you have enough coverage for anyone hurt by your young driver’s mistake. This will protect you as well. Failing to have enough insurance coverage may open you or your young driver to being personally liable for any damages over and above the bodily injury limits.  Additionally, uninsured and underinsured coverage will protect your young driver in the event he or she is seriously injured by a negligent driver that doesn’t have auto insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage.

Of course, there are a ton of other tips to keep your young driver and family safe. Following these tips and others will hopefully teach your young driver to be a responsible and safe driver.

Do You Have Question About Young Drivers?

Mahaney & Pappas, LLP has well over 40 years of combined experience in personal injury cases and auto accidents, including accidents and insurance issues involving young drivers.

If you have questions about teen drivers, the Junior Operator Law in Massachusetts and/or insurance coverage, feel free to contact us online or call us at (508) 879-3500.

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