Prom season means the party of the year for high school students and all-night worries for their parents. But while most kids return without incident with memories they’ll cherish for a lifetime, others never make it home. Recently, a tragic accident the afternoon after prom left one 17-year-old high school student dead and three others injured after their Benz sedan, rented for the weekend of the junior prom, veered off Greendale Road in Fredon in Sussex County and flipped over. This horrible tragedy, reported by NJ.com on May 14, has devastated the girl’s family and community.
As personal injury attorneys managing auto accident cases throughout New Jersey, we see accidents involving young drivers far too often. While the NJ.com report is short on facts and does not name the cause of the accident, there are a few points that cause us concern:
- A teen driver operating a rental car — It’s very important that novice drivers be familiar with the vehicle they are operating and comfortable behind the wheel. Allowing a novice driver to operate an unfamiliar vehicle is not prudent.
- A crowd of teenagers in the car — Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents. Having a group of boisterous teens in the car does a novice driver no favors.
- Driver fatigue — Although proms end around 11 pm generally, after-parties run into the wee hours of the morning. How much sleep had the driver gotten and was he impaired by fatigue?
As additional facts become known, we may get a clearer picture of how the accident came about. But for now, we’d also like to offer some general tips to keep your teen drivers safe, not only during prom season, but into the summer months as well:
- Limit nighttime driving — Driving at night presents numerous challenges to novice drivers: visibility, fatigue, and taking precautions against dangerous maneuvers by other vehicles. Encourage short trips along safe, familiar routes.
- Limit the number of friends allowed in the car — Turning the car into a rolling party is asking for trouble.
- Have a strict alcohol/drug/cellphone use policy — Parents have to be vigilant about the temptations that teenagers face. Have a good heart-to-heart talk and set down some clear, strict rules.
Finally, when it comes to prom, limousines are safer than having kids drive themselves. However, you should be aware of the risks inherent in stretch limousines. Not only are these vehicles difficult to maneuver even for professional drivers, but they lack the structural integrity of regular-sized limos if there is a crash. Moreover, passengers ride unrestrained, so even moderate-speed accidents can be deadly. Plus, too many kids in one vehicle can lead to rowdiness that could be distracting to the driver.
Help your child and friends choose a reputable limousine company. Note whether the company has a policy against allowing underage drinking and ask how vigorously they enforce it. Ask the driver to stick to surface streets rather than taking the freeway if at all possible. Your child’s prom should be a positive experience, and that starts with safety.
As peer-to-peer ride sharing apps like Uber & Lyft grow in popularity, it is important to remember that a rider must be at least 18 years of age to have an Uber account and request rides. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older on any ride.
If you have been injured in an auto accident due to someone’s negligence, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Brach Eichler Injury Lawyers are prepared to help. Call us at 973-364-8300 or contact our office online.