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Teen-Drivers in Massachusetts
Massachusetts uses a graduated licensing process for new teen-drivers, but could the program fail to emphasize important skills?

Every year, prospective teen-drivers throughout Massachusetts and the United States enter classrooms to learn the basic rules of driving; which vehicle has right-of-way, what it means to yield, the dangers of distracted driving and much more.

Yet, learning about driving in an educational setting doesn’t necessarily translate to “good” driving when real-world dangers are encountered while behind-the-wheel. And, according to an article by CarInsurance.com there are three skills that driver’s education programs fail to emphasize.

Distracted Driving

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has used his tenure to bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving, such as using often specifically targeting messages and educational programs at young drivers. Yet, teens are not getting the message.

A recent survey by the insurance company State Farm reveals that 57 percent of the teens surveyed admitted to texting while driving. Further, the survey found that 63 percent of teens “strongly agreed” that texting while driving would likely result in an accident; whereas 83 percent “strongly agreed” that drinking and driving would likely result in an accident. Research from the University of Utah shows that using a cellphonewhile driving delays drivers’ reactions similar to drivers who are legally drunk (a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, teen drivers were more likely than any other group of drivers to be involved in a fatal car-accidentinvolving a distracted driver. The NHTSA reports that 16 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal car accidents were distracted.

As of 2010, teaching teens about the dangers of distracted driving was a part of a few drivers’ education programs throughout the country. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 18 states and Washington, D.C., incorporated distracted driving into drivers’ education programs.

Skids and Hard Braking

Another driving skill needing more emphasis in drivers’ education is braking. Teens often fail to understand how hard to step on the brakes in emergency situations, or even know how to control the vehicle when they do, according to one professional driving instructor.

Situational Awareness

Lastly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, teen drivers are more likely to underestimate or fail to recognize hazardous situations. “Situational awareness,” according to CarInsurance.com, involves “searching for and identifying all potential hazards on the road.”

Massachusetts Graduated Licensing

In order to allow teens to gain valuable driving experience in the safest possible way, Massachusetts uses a graduated licensing program consisting of three steps: Learner’s permit, Junior Operator’s License and full licensure. To reach the third step of full licensure, the minor drivers must first successfully complete the previous steps, each with its own requirements and restrictions.

Learner’s permit is the first step in the process for a new minor working to obtain a full driver’s license. While holding a learner’s permit, the following restrictions and requirements apply:

  • Must be at least 16-years-old to obtain a permit.
  • Must hold the learner’s permit for at least six months.
  • Complete a minimum of 12 hours of supervised driving by an adult in the passenger’s seat. The accompanying adult must be at least 21-years-old, hold a valid driver’s license from Massachusetts or another state, and have a minimum of one year of driving experience.
  • Complete a minimum of six hours of behind-the-wheel training with an instructor.
  • Complete a minimum of four hours of in-car observation of another student driver.
  • Complete 30 hours of classroom instruction.
  • Permit holders under 18-years-old cannot drive between 12:00 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian with a valid driver’s license and at least one year of driving experience.

Junior Operator’s License, also called a JOL, is the next step in the graduated licensing process. Restrictions on obtaining and driving with a JOL include:

  • Must be at least 16.5-years-old before unsupervised driving is allowed.
  • Cannot drive between 12:00 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian with a valid driver’s license and at least one year of driving experience.
  • No passengers under the age of 18-years-old for the first six months, unless the passenger is a member of the driver’s immediate family or an adult at least 21-years-old is supervising.
  • Complete an additional 12 hours of supervised driving.

Full licensure is obtained by completing the previous two steps and only after a driver has reached 18-years-old.

After a car accident, speak with a personal injury attorney about your legal options. Through a personal injury lawsuit you can recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Keywords: Distracted Driving, Graduated Driver's License, Cellphone While Driving, Massachusetts
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