Most people have at least a general idea of how liability works in an Ohio car accident case. A negligent driver who injures you, damages your property, or is responsible for the death of a loved one is generally responsible for those losses. But what happens when the negligent driver is a minor?
Ohio Teen Driving Statistics
Young drivers are, on average, more dangerous than older, more experienced drivers. A Traffic Safety Bulletin released by the Ohio State Highway Patrol in 2019 showed that:
- 15% of all traffic crashes in the state from 2016 to 2018 involved at least one teen driver, though teenagers make up only about 4% of licensed drivers;
- In 71% of those accidents, the teenage driver was partly or wholly responsible for the accident;
- 8% of traffic fatalities during that period and 12% of crash-related injuries were attributable to teen drivers.
During that three-year period, there were more than 7,400 teen-driver-at-fault crashes in Cuyahoga County and another 4,700+ in Summit County. Together, these two counties account for nearly 13% of teen-at-fault motor vehicle accidents in the state.
While teen drivers are responsible for a disproportionate share of accidents, injuries, and deaths year-round, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) calls the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day the “100 Deadliest Days.” Historically, teen drivers around the country kill about 700 people each summer. Another study from AAA showed that the crash rate of drivers aged 16-17 was nearly double that of drivers who were 18-19, and about 4.5 times as high as that for drivers aged 30-59 during the summer months.
Why Do Teen Driver Accidents Happen?
Of course, teenagers engage in the same types of risky behaviors as adult drivers–driving too fast, becoming distracted while driving, driving while fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, disregarding traffic laws, failing to adapt to conditions and more. But there are a handful of risky behaviors and mistakes that factor into a significant percentage of teen-at-fault accidents.
The Traffic Safety Bulletin referenced above shows that in 35% of teen driver accidents, the young driver was following too closely (a violation of Ohio’s Assured Clear Distance Ahead (ACDA) law). 21% involved the teenage driver failing to yield or running a red light or stop sign.
Failure to yield or running a red light/stop sign is the leading cause of teen-at-fault traffic deaths. Other leading causes of fatal teen accidents included improper lane changes, driving left-of-center, and unsafe speed.
Distracted Driving in Teens
Undoubtedly, distracted driving played a role in a significant percentage of these and other teen driving accidents. An observational study of teen drivers revealed, unsurprisingly, that use of electronic devices was the most common driving distraction among teens. Other common distractions included adjusting controls in the vehicle, personal grooming, and eating or drinking. Teens engaging in distracted behaviors were 2.5 to 3 times as likely to look away from the road as attentive drivers.
Who is Responsible for Ohio Teen-at-Fault Accidents?
Ohio law requires that a teen’s application for a temporary instruction permit or probationary license be signed by a parent or guardian. If there is no parent or guardian available, the application may be signed by another responsible adult who agrees to take on the legal responsibilities associated with that signature.
The statute makes the parent, guardian, or other responsible adult liable for “any negligence, or willful or wanton misconduct, that is committed by a minor under eighteen years of age when driving a motor vehicle…” Under the law, the signing party is jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages. That means that the driver and the signing party share responsibility, but either may be held responsible for 100% of the damages. For instance, in the case of a minor with no resources, the adult who assumed responsibility might end up paying for all of the damages, despite that shared liability.
However, there are limitations on this imputed liability. For instance, the parent or other signatory is not deemed liable if the minor driver carries liability insurance in compliance with Ohio law.
The imputed liability a parent, guardian or other adult accepts when signing a minor’s driver’s license application isn’t the only way someone other than the teen driver might be held responsible. A third party, including but not limited to a parent or guardian), may bear or share liability if his or her own negligence contributed to the accident. Some possible examples include allowing a teen to take the family car although the parent knew or suspected that the teen was under the influence of alcohol, or entrusting a vehicle to a teen to make a trip the parent had reason to know the young driver wasn’t adequately prepared for.
Liability for Teen Accidents in a Nutshell
Depending on the circumstances, a young driver may be legally responsible for a car crash he or she caused and may carry his or her own liability insurance to cover any damages sustained. In other cases, the parent, guardian, or other person who signed the teen’s driver’s license application may be imputed liability and may be wholly or jointly responsible. Additionally, a third party such as a parent or employer may share liability for other reasons.
The best way to determine which parties may be responsible and what sources are available to cover damages sustained in a crash with a teen driver is to consult an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney. The veteran car accident lawyers at Plevin & Gallucci offer free consultations to help people who have been injured make informed decisions. You can schedule yours right now by calling 877-4PLEVIN or filling out the contact form on this site.