We've written several blog posts on the connection between age and accident rates, focusing on the polar extremes of teens and seniors. However, our Panama City car accident injury law firm has also noticed another age-related trend: the disproportionate number of accidents caused by drivers in their 20s. Members of this age group have had time to master the basic driving skills, but they tend to take risks that often lead to accidents, injuries, and tragedies.
A 25-year-old driver is looking at a range of charges following an accident that killed 1 and injured 7 near the North Okaloosa County town of Holt, an incident detailed by WJHG. The Florida Highway Patrol ("FHP") reports that Zachary Hale of Jemison, Alabama was driving an SUV on Interstate 10 when he ran off the road, across the grass median, and crashed into a van travelling on the opposite side of the Interstate, causing both vehicles to overturn. There were 7 people in the van – 1 died (Rebecca DeNardis, age 21 of Cary, NC) and 6 sustained injuries. Officers charged Hale with DUI Manslaughter, one count of DUI with serious bodily injury, and six counts of DUI with minor injuries.
Much less attention has been paid to twenty-something drivers than teen drivers, a trend that inspired Australian researcher Suzanne Vassallo and the Australian Institute of Family Studies to undertake a study discussed in a 2010 article. After a 4-year study focusing on drivers ages 19-24, the Institute concluded that a little bit of experience didn't necessarily translate into better driving. More than 80% of drivers in the age group reported speeding, a fact that likely factored into the fact that 3 out of 5 surveyed drivers reported involvement in a crash since obtaining their license.
An even more dangerous fact – 23% of 23- and 24-year-olds drove drunk, an increase over the 14% of 19 and 20-year-olds who engaged in drunk driving (note: the legal age to buy alcohol in Australia is 18, and some areas allow younger people to drink at home with parental supervision). Vassallo suggested one factor in the rise may be the graduation from provisional to open licenses, noting a zero alcohol limit for provisional licensees and a 0.05 limit for full licensure. The study also found people who drove impaired were more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors like speeding, drugged driving, and failing to wear a seatbelt.
Further information from the study, called "In the Driver's Seat II: Beyond the Early Driving Years," appears on Generation Next's website. The group, which focuses on the wellbeing of young people, notes that there was a small decrease in high-degree speeding and in driving without a seatbelt between the 19-20 and 23-24 groups, but other forms of dangerous driving behaviors increased or remained stable as drivers moved into their twenties. The authors concluded risky driving remains a major issue in the mid-20s, and they suggested sustaining safety efforts into the twenties (versus concentrating only on teens) is very important. Interestingly, the study also found a correlation between risky driving and other risk-taking behaviors, such as alcohol or substance abuse, suggesting a general education on risk-taking could have a major impact.
It wasn't mentioned in the Australian reports, but we think there is another reason to worry about accidents involving twenty-something drivers (and passengers). The 20s decade is also when many people start their families, meaning crashes involving drivers in their twenties may also involve very young children. Even if a child is not in the vehicle, an accident that hurts or, worse yet, kills a young adult can dramatically impact the life of that person's child.
We didn't locate a study focusing on twenty-something drivers in the United States, making our first suggestion a call for research aimed at drivers who are young adults. Our second call is for safety messages targeting this young adult group, perhaps tied to the huge amount of media aimed at this age range. As always, we believe this message is also supported when the young adults are held accountable for their actions.
If a driver in his/her 20s caused an accident that left you injured, hurt your child, or caused the death of a close relative, call us. Our Panama City accident lawyer can help you recover monetary compensation, and we can send a message to the defendant and others that a few years of experience does not mean one can engage in risky behaviors without consequence.