The American Automobile Association (AAA) conducted a very interesting study looking at newly-licensed teen drivers. Having observed a proportionally higher number of teen drivers causing car accidents, AAA decided to look at their driving behaviors. In Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers, AAA reported on a study in which it had mounted cameras on the front windshields of teens' cars, videoing both facing outward, toward the front of the car, and also into the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
AAA put several video clips on its web site. These clips show the teens engaging in risky driving behaviors. I have been using the videos to look at how Georgia law on teenagers causing wrecks, or otherwise engaging in risky driving behaviors.
I have been writing about the video of one boy in particular, so far. I will be addressing other videos in future entries. All of the videos scared me witless, but for some reason this one really affected me.
In this particular video clip, a young boy is driving a pickup truck, bouncing hard along a dirt road. He is driving faster than he should be, and he has more than one passenger in the open bed of his pickup truck. As the truck bounces, you can periodically see passengers flying up and appearing through the back windshield, and then crashing back down out of sight. It looks for all the world like the Power Ball drawings you see on TV, where one ball suddenly pops up higher than the others, and then lands back in the mix, only to be replaced by another ball. The driver and a buddy riding in the front passenger seat cackle merrily at the great fun.
Yes, I see this in terms of my role as a car accident lawyer bringing lawsuits in Cobb County and all over Georgia. But even more, I view it through the lens of a mom, thinking of my own soon-to-be drivers.
Given that AAA intentionally tested newly-licensed drivers, it is possible, but unlikely, that the young driver in this particular vehicle may have violated the Teenage & Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA). Under TADRA, a person in the first six months of driving "shall not drive a motor vehicle upon the public roads, streets or highways of this state when any other passenger in the vehicle is not a member of the driver's immediate family." It appeared that the passenger beside the boy was a friend of the same age, and not a family member, so theoretically this section could apply, depending on how long the driver had had his license.
A person in the second six months of driving "shall not drive a motor vehicle upon the public roads, streets or highways of this state when more than one other passenger in the vehicle (who is not a member of the driver's immediate family) is less than 21 years of age." If the passengers in the bed of the truck are considered passengers "in the vehicle", then it is possible the teenage driver violated Georgia law even if he had held his license between six and twelve months.
However, both of these statutes only apply to people who are driving on public roads. Given that this boy was driving on a dirt road, he probably was not on a public road, and therefore this section would not apply to him at all. Still, I cannot help but think about the Decatur car wrecks involving teenagers that I have seen, and how devastating they can be for families.