The idea of learning to drive before the age of 16 is common in rural America. Children may start driving sooner than the legal driving age. The open and less crowded paths allow them to learn to drive freely despite not being of legal age. A recent fatal crash, however, has led to many concerns.
13 Year Old Behind the Wheel in A Fatal Car Crash
On 15th March 2022, at 8:17 pm, a pickup truck and a van carrying members of a New Mexico university’s golf teams collided in West Texas. The collision occurred on a two-lane road about 9 miles from Andrews, northwest Midland-Odessa.
Unfortunately, in the crash, there were a total of 9 fatalities. These included six students who were part of the University of the Southwest’s Golf Team and their coach. The other two people who died were in the Dodge pickup truck, 38-year-old Henrich Siemens, and his 13-year-old son. Two students from the van were taken to the hospital and were in critical condition.
The report later revealed that the 13-year-old boy, whose identity was not disclosed, was the one that was driving the pickup truck at the time of the crash. This information sent shockwaves around the country and sparked interest in the practice of letting underage drivers drive in some rural regions.
Why Did the Car Crash Occur?
The experts are unable to identify the cause of the collision. However, the authorities said that the boy was driving the Dodge pickup on the road with a 75 mph speed limit when the truck’s front left tire, a spare, blew out.
This led to the truck swerving across the center line and into the oncoming Ford passenger van transferring the golf team from the University of the Southwest in Hobbs, New Mexico. Both vehicles collided head-on and then caught fire.
It is still not clear why the 13-year-old boy was behind the wheel. According to locals, the road is known to have heavy traffic due to the surrounding oil fields of the Permian Basin and is not safe.
The nighttime, the high-speed limit, and the busy road made the road even more dangerous for the young driver.
Legal Age in the Different States
According to the driver training programs manager for AAA’s national office, driving on private property without age restriction is legal. However, underage driving on public roads is strictly prohibited.
There are particular graduated driver’s licensing programs in each state of the U.S. These programs allow teens as young as 14 to participate in driver’s education classes or begin driving with an instructor or guardian. Eventually, they are independent enough to be allowed to drive on their own or at night until they have full privileges.
Attorney Max Paderewski of Lone Star Injury Attorneys explains, “A person must be at least 14 years of age to be eligible to participate in classroom instructions for a learner’s permit in the state of Texas. Fifteen years is the minimum age to receive a provisional license to drive with an instructor or a licensed adult in the vehicle. Anyone below this age can legally not drive even in the presence of a licensed adult in the vehicle. Children should be extremely vigilant on roads and generally avoid heavy traffic roads until they are extremely confident.”
Statistics about Young Drivers
The data of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that 47 fatal crashes and 1,057 injury crashes occurred in 2020 involving drivers 13 or younger. In 2019, 27% of the fatal crashes involved passenger vehicle teen drivers (15-18 years old.)
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) regulated a study from 2000 to 2011 that showed that teenagers between 15 and 18 caused 19,447 speeding-related crashes.
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