In today’s society, there are more young drivers on the road than ever before. While this has increased independence for youth and has assisted busy families with the jam-packed schedules that families face today, the increase in underage drivers does not come without risks.
Statistics show that underage drivers contribute to accidents, injury, and property damage at a much higher rate than experienced drivers. Thus, the risk to all drivers on the road today of being injured or suffering property damage due to the actions of an underage driver is also much higher.
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What is the Law Concerning Underage Drivers in Ontario?
Novice drivers in Ontario have a different set of laws that apply to their driving privileges under the G2 license rules, the Highway Traffic Act, and the Liquor Licence Act. Sometimes violation of these standards contributes to accidents and injuries that involve novice drivers. In those cases, violation of these standards can be used to support legal claims for negligence arising out of such accidents.
12 Month Practice Period
Novice drivers who possess a G2 license may practice with a G2 license for 12 months without the need for another experienced driver in the vehicle, on the roads of Ontario at any time.
While G2 licensing requires passing a road test, it is this 12 month practice period that can lead to potential accidents and injuries due to the inexperience of G2 drivers because the drivers are allowed to drive independently without another fully licensed driver in the vehicle.
The G2 license rules are based upon regulations under the Highway Traffic Act, and specifically fall under a regulation called “Driver’s Licenses” which includes information on most of the rules that govern G2 licenses.
One of the most important rules under the G2 license rules is the restriction on the number of passengers that can ride with a driver who has a G2 license.
During the first 6 months of having a G2 license, G2 drivers can only drive with one (1) passenger who is 19 and under between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m.
After the first 6 months of having a G2 license, G2 drivers can drive with up to three (3) passengers aged 19 and under between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m.
The passenger restrictions do not apply if a fully licensed driver is in the car (must have at least 4 years of driving experience) OR if all of the passengers are immediate family members such as parents, brothers or sisters.
Zero Blood Alcohol Content
Novice drivers are absolutely prohibited from having any alcohol in their blood. Unfortunately, it is common that many accidents caused by underage drivers do have alcohol as a contributing cause.
If a novice driver has been drinking and driving, this will serve as additional evidence to prove a negligence claim for the recovery of property damages and damages for personal injuries.
What are some steps to take if you are hit by an underage driver?
New or novice drivers present greater risks for causing accidents simply because of lack of experience driving. In addition, if the novice driver violates any of the common sense rules mentioned above (for example concerning the number of passengers), those distractions can also be contributing factors to accidents involving underage drivers. So the next question becomes what are the best action steps to take if you are involved in an accident with an underage driver?
The first thing, of course, is to seek appropriate assistance from law enforcement and/or medical personnel if necessary. Make sure that the underage driver’s parents are notified and called to the scene of the accident if at all possible.
Documenting an accident with an underage driver through law enforcement may assist in making a claim for injuries suffered as the failure of the underage driver to follow the legal restrictions in place for his or her license can contribute to a finding of negligence.
It is also very important to get accurate information concerning the driver, including correct name, address and phone number as well as the parent information for the driver.
In addition to the above, obtaining information concerning applicable insurance coverage will also be very important.
After going through the initial steps of summoning law enforcement, the next step in the process is to contact your insurance company to notify them of the accident and also determine next steps. It may be necessary to consult with a lawyer at this point in time as well to determine any other applicable legal rights you may have. This will vary depending on the facts of each claim. It is important to engage a lawyer early in the process to be sure that your rights are protected and that any applicable statutes of limitations are also observed.
Something else to keep in mind is that because G2 drivers do have restrictions on their driving and they have not yet obtained a full regular license, G2 drivers have a great deal of incentive to find ways to avoid liability for such accidents and violations of their licensing restrictions. If they do have such violations, that can mean that the novice driver has to go all the way back through the steps of the licensing process without violations in order to be eligible to receive a regular license.
Who can be liable for injuries caused by a novice driver?
In general, the novice driver himself can be liable for injuries caused by his own negligence. However, often novice drivers do not have adequate assets to cover such claims. If the novice driver has automobile insurance as required by law, that will certainly help the equation. However, sometimes even that coverage is not adequate.
If the parent or parent of the novice driver contributed in some way to the accident by either creating or allowing a condition to exist that contributed, vicarious liability might also be a possibility for the parents.
If the claims are not resolved informally through the insurance adjusting process, it may be that a lawsuit is necessary is filed to address the injuries and damage that has occurred as a result of the accident caused by the novice driver. However, there may be coverage issues vis-a-vis the novice driver’s insurance company.
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How else can drivers protect themselves from underage drivers?
One option for drivers to provide additional protection for themselves is to explore additional insurance coverages to hedge this risk.
Another option is to purchase supplemental disability insurance coverage that will cover income losses in the event of being unable to work due to an accident. While there are some public benefits potentially available, those are typically not as good as privately purchased coverage.
While there is no perfect way to prevent being injured by an underage driver, some of these options can certainly hedge the risks of such an injury occurring. If you’ve been injured by an underage driver, contact an experienced automobile accident lawyer to get the help you need.