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Arizona teen car accident fatalities on the rise
The rate of teen crashes increases in Arizona and across the country. Experts say that teens receive inadequate instruction on how to drive safely.

The number of teen car accident fatalities in Arizona recently increased, reflecting a problem seen throughout the country. Approximately 3,000 driving-age teens died in car accidents in 2009 and more than 350,000 teens were treated in hospital emergency rooms for personal injuries from car accidents that year. Car accidents are the leading killer of American teens and experts say that inadequate training is one of the leading contributing factors in these crashes.

Teen drivers are four times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a crash. Teens are also more dangerous drivers when they first begin driving on their own. One study found that teen drivers were 50 percent more likely to be involved in a car accident during their first month of driving alone than in their first year of driving alone. This indicates that many teens are hitting local roads without the skills they need to drive safely.

One driver’s education teacher noted that Arizona does not mandate that teens receive formal training before receiving a license. Arizona teens are required to complete only 30 hours of supervised driving instruction, which many experts say is grossly inadequate.

"We tell our parents we are highly, highly recommending a minimum of 100 hours that you practice with them in addition to what we're teaching them here," one driver's education instructor said. The instructor also noted that age is not the primary factor in driver readiness because age is not a good measure of a teen driver’s skill, training and judgment.

In addition to being generally less experienced on the road, many teens are susceptible to the temptations of their smartphones. Distracted driving car accidents are increasingly common in Arizona and it appears that parents’ driving habits are part of the reason so many teens are involved in distracted driving crashes.

A recent poll conducted by State Farm Insurance Co. indicated that about 53 percent of parents admitted to being distracted by their cellphones when teaching their teens how to drive. Around 61 percent of the teens reported their parents being distracted during these same sessions. An even greater number of teens noted that their parents were distracted by cellphones during noninstruction driving time.

State Farm's director of technology research calls these statistics alarming and a sign that things need to change.

"There is a need to remind parents that they are the role models," the researcher said. "Whether it's deliberate or not, we're showing these teens what's acceptable in the car."

Although there is understandably a learning curve involved with any new skill set, those who are injured by teen drivers do have rights. A teen can be held liable for negligent driving behavior through a personal injury lawsuit. Typically, these lawsuits hold teen drivers and sometimes their parents accountable for the damages arising out of a car accident, including medical expenses and lost wages, among other things. It is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after a teen driving accident to preserve your right to the compensation you deserve.

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