A car crash resulting in multiple teen deaths in Orange County, CA was reported by the Los Angeles Times to involve the following all too common factors in traffic collisions involving younger persons as follows:
- The auto accident happened at approximately 2:10 a.m. as the teens were returning from Knott’s Berry Farm.
- There were five total occupants in the vehicle at the time of the crash (A driver and four passengers).
- Three of the five passengers are believed to have died from blunt force trauma from the impact rather than a subsequent vehicle fire that broke out. This could indicate a lack of seat belt use.
- The accident appears to have involved a vehicle that veered off the freeway, went up an embankment, slammed into a guard rail and burst into flames. This indicates that the driver was probably traveling at an excessive speed for roadway conditions and/or made some other dangerous driving maneuver prior to the crash.
- The teen driver operating the motor vehicle when it crashed is reported to not have had either a permanent or even restricted license.
What can we learn from this terrible tragedy?
As a personal injury attorney serving Los Angeles and Orange County, CA, I have, unfortunately, seen many such tragedies involving traffic collisions with teenage drivers and passengers. As I discussed in a related blog post , motor vehicle collisions involving younger people tend to have common factors. These include the following:
- Inexperience behind the wheel which leads to either unsafe driving techniques or an inability to ascertain the proper speed and distances needed to negotiate a particular driving maneuver
- Too many people in the car, which can lead to rowdy behavior and other distractions which can take the driver’s attention off the road.
- Distracted driving due to cell phone, loud radio music or other similar diversions of attention.
- Lack of seat belt use.
- Driving in the late night or early morning hours which can lead to drowsiness or fatigue of the driver.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (although, there doesn’t seem to be a finding of that in this particular case).
My advice as an auto accident lawyer who deals with claims involving teenage accident victims in Los Angeles and Orange County CA:
First and foremost: I am a huge advocate of education. This includes formal driver’s safety education classes such as those offered through programs approved by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Education has to continue, though, through parents, older siblings, teachers, mentors and other adults with relationships with teen drivers. Following the protocol set forth by the CA DMV for obtaining a provisional license first and driving with an adult is the best way, in my opinion, to get some of this “hands on” training. Driving is a skill that develops over time and, just like any other skill, it needs to be practiced. Second: I would never suggest allowing teenage drivers to operate a motor vehicle with other teen passengers. In fact, California law forbids this practice in many circumstances especially during the provisionary licensing stage. Third: We need to teach kids and young adults the importance of seat belt use. Lack of safety restraints is the NUMBER ONE cause of fatalities in motor vehicle accidents according to any number of studies including those conducted by organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fourth: It goes without saying that teaching the dangers of driving under the influence cannot be stressed enough at home and school. Finally, restricting the hours when a teen can use the family car to daytime or early evening is a good way to reduce the chance of collisions.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims in this terrible incident!