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Car accidents are common and deadly among adolescent drivers

Half of all adolescents who die in their teens are the victims of traffic accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the major causes of car accidents are distracted driving and impaired driving. Drivers 16 to 19-years-old are among the most common violators of a wide variety of traffic violations, including speeding, texting while driving and drunk driving. Illinois law enforcement officers see the results every day.

Adolescents are the drivers most likely to speed. Some 37 of adolescents involved in fatal car accidents were speeding just before their crashes. Adolescents also show a high percentage of drunk driving. Several state prevention programs have tried to create public awareness about driving while intoxicated, including making 0.04 percent the blood alcohol limit for teens instead of the 0.08 percent BAC limit for adults; teens can be charged with drunk driving if they are over the lower BAC limit. In fact, drivers less than 21-years-old are subject to a zero-tolerance policy, which means that minor drivers found with alcohol in their bloodstream are subject to even more severe penalties.

Other than alcohol-related accidents, minor drivers who are responsible for car accidents because of traffic violations are subject to the same laws as their adult counterparts. Drivers found guilty of traffic violations that cause car accidents face severe penalties, including possible prison or jail time, heavy fines and a suspended or revoked driver's license. Teen drivers are also encouraged to wear seatbelts while driving because they have been proven over the decades to cut the number of highway injuries and fatalities.

Victims of car accidents often suffer both physical and psychological harm. Large medical expenses can complicate recovery if they lead to financial problems.

Source: CDC.gov, "Teen drivers: get the facts", accessed on Nov. 13, 2014

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