2020 was a dangerous year for teens on North Carolina roads. Despite fewer cars occupying the roads due to the COVID pandemic, a total of 107 teens – 62 of them in the driver’s seat – died in car accidents in the state, which was the highest number recorded since 2011.

A scared teen girl sitting on the road after a car crash.So, what can be done to lessen the number and severity of car crashes involving teens? Hands-on teen driving courses geared towards teens may be able to help teen drivers become more aware of the real dangers they face from passenger distractions as well as other safety hazards, such as hydroplaning and skidding, veering off the road, and so on.

In this article, I’ll discuss some of the risk factors for teen drivers and provide information on a national non-profit organization offering free behind-the-wheel training in advanced safety maneuvers for teens.

Teen Car Accident Risk Rises With Additional Passengers

A common reason for teen car crashes and deaths is distraction from other passengers. There’s a reason North Carolina law limits the number of passengers and their ages in cars driven by teens – it’s dangerous!

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published a comprehensive report on how dangerous it is for young people to have teen passengers under the age of 21 with them while they are driving.

They made the following alarming findings:

  • 16- or 17-year old drivers with passengers in the car 21 years old or under (and no older passengers in the car) are 44% more likely to be in a crash.
  • With two or more passengers, the risk of a collision is doubled.
  • With three or more passengers, the risk can quadruple.

Other Risk Factors That Are Elevated for Teen Drivers

The National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) identified the following car crash risk factors that are higher among teenage drivers:

  • Driver inexperience
  • The presence of teenage passengers
  • Distractions such as using a cell phone and texting
  • Drinking and driving
  • Nighttime driving
  • Adherence to social norms – i.e. risky driving is higher among teens who report that their friends drive in a risky manner

The NICHD also found that often several of the above risk factors were present when teen drivers crashed.

Free Hands-On Driving Course for NC Teens

Car from the BRAKES program demonstrating the skid recovery and control course.One driving safety course offered to teenagers in Raleigh, Charlotte, and surrounding areas (including other states) is Charlotte-based B.R.A.K.E.S (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe). And importantly, B.R.A.K.E.S. is free.3

The instructors are professional drivers with extensive experience in advanced driver training – many who are or have been involved in professional racing, law enforcement, or movie stunt driving. The school is AAA-approved, endorsed by the National Coalition for Safer Roads, and listed among Consumer Reports’ preferred list of defensive driving schools. KIA sponsors the school by supplying the cars the teens drive during training.

B.R.A.K.E.S is headquartered in Charlotte and offers monthly training courses at the Zmax Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as well as periodically in the Raleigh area and in other states.

Attorney Brian Clemmons enrolled his teen daughter in a B.R.A.K.E.S course. “She had been somewhat of an insecure driver,” Brian said. “And, frankly, I wasn’t totally comfortable having her drive in certain situations. This course, I feel, helped develop her confidence on the road. You could see how her self-assurance soared, and she became a much better driver immediately after taking it.”

The course exposes teens to the following hazards while driving a car, but in the safety of a large protected area:

  • Distraction Exercise
    Teens are taught how difficult it is to negotiate a tightly coned course while the instructor distracts them. The course is designed to demonstrate just how dangerous cell phones, text messaging, music, traffic, and friends in the car can be.
  • Accident Avoidance/Slalom Exercise
    This two-part course teaches students how to make a split-second reaction to negotiate a quick, evasive lane change without losing control. It is designed to simulate an object or animal suddenly appearing in front of a car. The second part of the course is a coned slalom course where students must negotiate the vehicle around cones while focusing on weight transfer, hand positioning, and eye scanning.
  • Drop Wheel/Off Road Recovery Exercise
    The drop wheel recovery course teaches students how to effectively recover from a drop wheel situation by regaining control of the car and safely returning to the roadway. Drop wheel accidents are among the highest causes of injuries and deaths across the U.S.
  • Panic Stop Exercise
    Teens are taught the proper technique to stop a vehicle in the shortest distance while maintaining vehicle control. Students experience first-hand the effects of an A.B.S. (Anti-Lock Braking System) and its ability to keep the wheels from locking while pulsating brake pressure.
  • Car Control and Recovery Exercise
    The skid pad course is designed to prepare teens to learn how to drive in bad weather and not to lose control. Students are taught how to properly recover from both over-steer (rear wheel) and under-steer (front wheel) skids.

NC Attorneys Evaluate Car Accident Cases Free

Many of us are parents, and we understand how much is at stake when our teens get behind the wheel. If your teen has been in an accident due to the fault of another person, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. We also want to keep teen drivers safe, and we are here to help.

If you have ever wondered, “How many beers can I drink and drive?” or “Can I drive after three beers?” there are many factors to take into consideration.

General Estimates

A 180-lb man may be able to drink 3.5 regular 12-ounce beers in one hour and keep his Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) under the legal limit of .08%. Similarly, a 140-lb woman may be able to consume 2.5 regular beers in an hour and maintain a BAC of less than .08%.

Keep in mind that these numbers are general estimates that assume that the average regular beer has a 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) level, and they do not take into account other factors. The following are known contributing factors to BAC levels:

  • an individual’s metabolic rate
  • age
  • food consumption
  • and more

There are also plenty of craft IPAs, stouts, and ales available with higher ABV levels which would impact the amount you can consume and stay under .08%. On the other hand, light beers have an average ABV of 4.2%, so the same 180-lb man and 140-lb woman may each be able to drink an additional beer in that hour timeframe and potentially keep a BAC lower than .08%. (And remember, there is no limit to the number of non-alcoholic beers you can drink!)

So those are the facts, but not all the facts. Read on for a closer look at the consequences of drinking and driving, plus some North Carolina-specific information that everyone should be aware of.

The Reality of Drunk Driving

You’ve probably seen the ads: “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.” And seen plenty of DWI statistics. But unless you have personally felt the effects of drunk driving or you work as a personal injury lawyer representing actual people whose lives have been ripped apart by the real devastation a drunk driver can cause, it probably doesn’t hit home.

But home is exactly where drunk drivers hit – and hit hard.

Families shattered. Children and teens’ lives cut short. Relatives left permanently disabled. Severely disfigured. Brain damaged.

I’ll never forget my first DWI case in particular, involving a registered nurse on her way home from a long shift at the hospital.

My client was leaving work where she routinely aided her patients. The other driver – the drunk driver – was considered a heavy drinker. The drunk driver ran a red light, striking my client in the driver door. My client was unable to work for months due to a shoulder injury.

While we were not able to turn back time and prevent the collision from happening, we did everything we could to help our client. We sought money from the drunk driver to try to:

  • “fix” our client’s shoulder with surgery
  • “help” our client after her surgery with physical therapy to try to regain her mobility and strength
  • “make up for” the intangibles our client suffered in the form of pain and suffering

Also – as a collision involving impaired driving – we sought money from the drunk driver to “punish and deter” him from getting behind the wheel and putting someone else in the community at risk of serious injury or death.1

Drunk Driving in the U.S.

So here are those national statistics again. Read them. But this time read them knowing that each statistic represents a real person.

Drunk driving facts including frequency of accidents and deaths, and the worst time of the day.

  • NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts reported that in 2018, every 50 minutes a death occurred as a result of a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 or higher.

That’s 10,511 deaths.

  • Among those fatalities, 67% were in crashes in which at least one driver in the crash had a BAC of .15 g/dL or higher – or roughly six to eight drinks in an hour.
  • Those 10,511 deaths represented 29% of all traffic fatalities for that year! Simply put, drunk drivers were behind about a third of all traffic deaths!
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 was 4 times higher at night than during the day.
  • The highest rates of drunk driving occur among drivers aged 21-34. This age group makes up 52% of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal collisions.

 

Drunk Driving in North Carolina

In 2020, there were 11,475 crashes that were related to alcohol. Of those, more than 7,800 resulted in injury. This is down slightly from 2019 when there were more than 8,000 injuries arising from alcohol-related crashes.

Even 2019’s numbers are lower than the 5-year average for alcohol-related crash injuries (8,149). Still, alcohol-related crashes represent 3.6% of all crashes statewide, according to 2020 statistics from the NCDOT. In 2020, the state also saw more than 2,700 crashes in which the driver had a BAC level above .15.

North Carolina death rates by drunk drivers are higher than the U.S. average for each age range.North Carolina drunk driving death rates are higher than the U.S. average for both males & females.

Am I Liable If I Serve Alcohol to Guests?

You may be. North Carolina law says that when an intoxicated guest causes an accident, the injured party may be able to seek damages from the host if certain conditions exist. So pay attention to the amount you serve your guests and read this list of Ten Way to Minimize Your Liability When Hosting a Holiday Party.

Drunk Driving Resources

We know what alcohol does to the body and brain – it slows our reactions, blurs our vision, makes us brave, and sometimes compels us to take unnecessary risks. Here are some links worth sharing with friends, family, and others – especially teens and twenty-somethings.

And, it bears repeating, if you’ve been drinking, call a cab, or Uber or Lyft. Contact a sober friend or relative. Use public transportation. Use your head – DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!

For a free case evaluation, call 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online to discuss your case.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. When teen drivers have other passengers in the car, the risk of a fatal car crash doubles. And teenagers are more prone to have a collision during the first months of licensure. Now, North Carolina roads may see an influx of teen drivers who have not even had a road test.

New Law Puts Untested Teen Drivers on NC Roads

Governor Roy Cooper recently signed a bill that allows teen drivers to get their limited driver’s license without a road test during the coronavirus pandemic. House Bill 158 permits the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to temporarily waive the requirement of a road test for young drivers attempting to obtain a Level 2 limited provisional license. The road test will now be administered after 6 months of violation-free driving with their provisional license. According to the NC DMV the road test will be waived provided that the teen drivers meet the following criteria:

  • Be 16 or 17 years old
  • Have their Level 1 Limited Learner Permit for at least 12 months
  • Have completed at least 60 hours of supervised driving, including time at night
  • Have no moving violations or seat belt/cell phone violations within the last six months
  • Have coverage under a liability insurance policy

Rules of Level 2 Limited Provisional License

If the above criteria are met, the teen driver will be able to get their Level 2 Limited Provisional License. However, there are still several regulations that drivers must abide by, including:

  • Drivers must be at least 16 years old, but less than 18.
  • Drivers may drive without supervision from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. and at any time when driving directly to or from work or any volunteer fire, rescue, or EMS activities.
  • Supervising driver must be seated beside the driver during restricted times.
  • Only one passenger under the age of 21 is allowed in a motor vehicle when the driver is the holder of a Level 2 license.
  • There is no limit on passengers under the age of 21 if all passengers in the vehicle are members of the driver’s immediate family or members of the same household as the driver.
  • If there is a supervising driver in the car, the passenger restriction/limit does not apply.

Negligent Entrustment

As mentioned above, parents have a stake in ensuring their teens are qualified to be on the road, because they can be sued directly if an accident occurs. Parental liability is created under the doctrine of negligent entrustment, which says a parent can be liable when their teen causes a car accident if the parent knew, or should have known, that the teen driver was a danger to others on the road.

With driving road tests being waived, this exposes many parents to liability. For example, if you give your teen driver minimal highway driving experience and then allowed them to drive on the highway with the level 2 license, and they cause an accident. In this situation, the parents are potentially liable for any damages resulting from the accident.

Vicarious Liability

Parents can also be on the hook for an accident their child caused through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability. Through vicarious liability, the parent will be liable for the wrongdoing of their teen driver if the driver is acting under direction and authority of the parent. In North Carolina, under vicarious liability, parents can be held liable if their teen driver causes a car accident while fulfilling any family “purpose” or “use.” This purpose can be almost anything, as long as the parent has control over the teen driver’s use of the car.

For instance, if a parent asks the teen driver to go to the gas station to fill up the car, the parent could be liable if the teen were to cause an accident during that drive.

NC Personal Injury Lawyers Evaluate Your Case FREE

If you are injured in an accident caused by a teen driver, you may be entitled to compensation. As you can tell, getting in an accident with a teen driver can be a very complicated legal situation. That’s where we can help. Here at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have experienced North Carolina car accident attorneys who know how to navigate complicated legal problems like these. For a FREE case evaluation, call us today at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online and chat with a live representative.

No one is prepared for a wheel to come off their car while they are careening down the I-85 near Greensboro or the I-77 near Charlotte. Nor are they usually prepared to encounter a runaway tire as they are headed down the I-40 to the Crystal Coast. Yet it happens more often than you might realize.

Crashes involving a detached wheel are known as wheel runoff or detached wheel accidents.

Wheel runoffs or detached wheel accidents are accidents involving a detached wheel

 

A Wheel Runoff Crash Is a Road Debris Crash

A wheel runoff accident is often referred to as a road debris crash. Approximately two-thirds of road debris-related crashes involved debris that became detached from a vehicle, including wheels, tires, driveshafts, etc. These items can either strike another vehicle as they detach or remain on the roadway and contribute to a crash.

Our firm has represented thousands of car wreck cases, some of them wheel runoff accidents. Here is how these types of accidents happen – and who can potentially be at fault when they do happen. (Spoiler alert – you could potentially be blamed even if you are the victim.)

Wheel Runoff Accident Causes

Many things can cause a car wheel to fall off while in route. Some of the more common can include:

  • Over-torqueing the lug nut: Overtightening the bolts that are used to secure the wheel to the car. This is the most common cause of wheel runoff accidents.
  • Under-torqueing the lug nut: When the bolts securing the wheel to the car aren’t secured tightly enough.
  • Wheel paint thickness: When the paint on a wheel is too thick, causing parts to become defective.
  • Hub failure: Like the lug nut, the hub of the wheel can become defective if it the axle nut is too tight or too loose. Additionally, the hub can lack necessary lubrication or be overloaded.

Causes of wheel runoff accidents including hub failure, wheel paint, and lug nuts

 

Some Reasons Why Wheels Detach

Experience has taught us that typically the causes mentioned above are usually a result of an error during the wheel maintenance or installation process. Here are some specific examples:

  • Incorrect use of tools: Over-torqueing the lug nut occurs because of the widespread use of impact wrenches. These tools make it fast and easy to add a lot of torque. But sometimes this results in dangerous outcomes when used incorrectly.
  • Use of defective tools: Under-torqueing can be caused by using cheap or worn out wrenches.
  • Hasty remanufacturing: Paint thickness defects can potentially occur when tire dealers and traders try to quickly repaint wheels to make them look new for resale.
  • Not following procedure: Correct axle installation involves following detailed steps to adjust and preload bearings.
  • Improper maintenance: Hub failures are usually progressive and often come with warning signs. These include leaking hub seals, tire tread wear anomalies, strange sounds and smells coming from the car, and smoke.

Who Is at Fault for Wheel Runoff Crashes and Injuries?

Wheel runoff accidents can be complex and must be investigated thoroughly to try to determine who was at fault. Negligence can sometimes be found in:

The driver or owner of the car.

Did the driver or owner know about the defect? Was the owner a private party or was the vehicle a company vehicle? Maintenance records must be thoroughly examined and, in some cases, mechanics may need to be interviewed.

The mechanic or repair shop.

While there are many exceptional mechanics throughout North Carolina, as in every profession, some can be less than exceptional. Of course, no mechanic wants to admit fault, and in many cases, they may not have been aware that they potentially contributed to the wheel runoff situation. It takes an experienced car accident attorney who is skilled at interviewing potentially negligent parties to try to uncover the truth as to who was at fault.

The manufacturer of the wheel or wheel part.

While many of these errors are caused by those performing car maintenance and upgrades, wheel runoff accidents can also be caused by manufacturer defects. In late 2018, Toyota recalled the 700 2019 C-HR Crossovers because of axle issues that could cause the rear tires to come off. It seems that tire recalls are almost as common as new tires, themselves. Michelin, Firestone, Goodyear, Bridgestone – all have had recalls for one reason or another. When an accident occurs because a tire failed to function properly, the manufacturer or distributor could potentially be found negligent.

Contributory Negligence – Are You Partially at Fault?

There’s one more entity that the insurance company could try to pin the blame on. You.

North Carolina is one of the few states known as a contributory negligence state. In insurance terms, that means that, barring a few exceptions, if you are at found to be fault for an accident or injury – even partially, just 1%, for example – the insurance company may not have to compensate you for your injuries or damages. Worse, you may even have to pay for some of the damages caused from the accident or injury.

Can I Seek Damages for a Wheel Runoff Accident?

If you have been hurt in a wheel runoff accident that was not your fault, you can seek compensation for harms and losses you experienced from the at-fault party’s insurance. You may be eligible for compensation for the following types of damages:

  • Car repairs
  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

An experienced attorney can provide guidance.

NC Personal Injury Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation

If you have been injured in a wheel runoff accident we urge you not to try to settle with the insurance company on your own. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Our car accident attorneys have been helping victims since 1997. Several of our attorneys were defense attorneys for the insurance industry so they have seen the law from both sides. And they recognize and know how to try to counter the tactics that insurance companies may use. Give us a call at 1-866-900-7078 and tell them you mean business.