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Our Lawyers Discuss Teens and Auto Accidents

Car accidents are the top cause of death of teenagers in British Columbia according to the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA). The fatality rate for teens involved in auto accidents in Canada is four to nine times greater than any other age group. The demographics show that male drivers in BC between the ages of 16 - 20 are 20 percent more likely to be killed in a serious car accident. Drivers under the age of 21 are involved in 14 percent of all vehicle crashes in BC when yet they represent fewer than seven per cent of the drivers. As a pre-emptive measure, learner and novice drivers are required to display a sign on the back of the vehicle to indicate their driving status. However, teens still get into auto accidents. Some of the common reasons are discussed here below, including distracted driving, drinking and driving and drugs and driving.


Distracted Driving
Distraction is a contributing factor in approximately 80 percent of all car accidents. Driver inexperience further puts teens at a greater risk when their attention is distracted away from the task of driving. The risk of crashing when using a cell phone is four times higher than the risk when a cell phone is not being used. As a result, learner and novice drivers cannot operate any hand-held or hands-free cellphones or other electronic devices while driving and can only use a GPS to determine a location or route, but they may not operate it while driving.

Passengers can also be a distraction while driving, especially when there are more passengers. While learners are required to have a supervisor age 25+ with a valid Class 1-5 licence in the front passenger seat, they can only transport one additional passenger. Novice drivers are able to drive with one passenger only (immediate family members are exempt), but need to have a supervisor age 25+ with a valid Class 1-5 licence present to have additional passengers.

Drinking and Driving
Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in Canada. Approximately one quarter of fatal crashes reported in BC involve alcohol, which is the reason that no amount of alcohol is permitted for learners and novice drivers and it may explain why learners are prohibited from driving between midnight and 5 a.m., when drinking and drinking offences are at their peak.

While young male drivers represent the greatest percentage of drinking and driving offenders, all teen drivers should be aware that drinking and driving is criminal offence resulting in licence suspension, fines, and possible jail time. Even as passengers, teens can be held for any injuries they suffer in an accident as a result of entering a vehicle with someone who has been drinking alcohol. This will result in a reduction of their award by the percentage they are to be contributed negligent.

Drugs and Driving
There has been more attention on drugs and driving in recent years. Age 16 is believed to be a pivotal year for teens to try drugs, coinciding with the legal age to obtain a Graduated Driver’s Licence. Further, 60 percent of illicit drug users in Canada are between the ages of 15 and 24, which raises concerns about teens using drugs and driving. With one quarter of auto accidents involving new drivers licenced under the Graduated Licensing Program resulting in serious injury or death, more research is needed on the impact that drugs could be having on teen drivers. In 2010, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse found that nearly as many drivers died in Canada in road crashes after using drugs (34.2 percent) as those who had been drinking (39.1 percent). Recreational or prescription drugs alone or mixed with alcohol substantially increase the risk that a new or teenager driver will be injured in a serious accident and possibly endanger the lives of other motorists.

Liability and Responsibility
The standard automobile policy with Insurance Corporation British Columbia (ICBC) insures for a minimum third party liability limit of $200,000.00. However, a serious collision involving passengers or other motorists could exceed the minimum ICBC liability limits. Parents of teen drivers should consider raising their insurance coverage limits to ensure they are adequately insured and introduce a “family contract,” setting out rules, guidelines and parental expectations which a teenage driver agrees to.

Parents may also want to have a discussion with their teens about the importance of telling the truth after an accident as failing to do so could leave them personally responsible for the damages. The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in Gosnell v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia that under Section 19(1) (e) (presently section 35) of the then Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act, if an insured makes a willfully false statement to ICBC, the claim can be denied. In this case, the plaintiff, Mr. Gosnell, was found to invalidate and forfeit his claim due to willfully making a false statement in connection with the claim that he “may have had one or two beers” the night before before driving when his blood alcohol concentration showed that he had been quite intoxicated.

Parents and teens alike need to be aware that, whether one is a teen driver, passenger or individual involved in some other way, serious consequences can result from the negligent use of a motor vehicle. The BC Court of Appeal upheld a jury verdict in the motor vehicle accident claim of Wells v. McBrine. In this case, there were acts of violence of a threatening nature during a teenage party and the same against a driver leaving afterwards. One or more bottles were thrown at the driver and there was some kicking and a great deal of shouting and cursing. Two pedestrians who had attended the party but were not involved in the violence were struck by a teen driver and suffered brain damage as a result. The driver said his view was obstructed. The jury found fault was attributed to all parties in the case; 20 per cent against a plaintiff, 40 per cent against the defendant, and 40 per cent against persons who were not in any way parties to the action but who were identified by the jury as "the crowd" or "the troublemakers." The Negligence Act of BC similarly confirms that if the fault of two or more persons causing damage or loss is caused by one or more of them, the resulting liability is in proportion to the degree to which each person was at fault.

Contact Bronson Jones & Company LLP
If you have been seriously injured in an automobile accident involving a teen driver or otherwise, contact a car accident lawyer in Vancouver or at our other offices. At Bronson Jones & Company LLP, we routinely deal with challenging motor vehicle accident cases and can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us at 1-855-852-5100. Representing vehicle accident victims. It’s all we do.

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