Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Is it an accident or a crash? Who is to blame when your teen wrecks a car?

Posted by lapearce on August 25, 2009

Warning sticker about roll over risk, speed, abrupt manouvers and seatbelts in an SUV

Warning sticker about roll over risk, speed, abrupt maneuvers and seatbelts in an SUV

Many people in the auto safety industry refuse to call wrecks accidents. That is because an accident implies that no one was at fault. That everything just happened and the drivers involved could not have stopped the collision no matter what they did. Typically that isn’t the case. Even when vehicle failure causes a crash a lack of maintenance on the driver’s fault is the actual cause. Instead, we call wrecks crashes. It is more accurate as it doesn’t assume that no fault can be assigned.

Now that the word accident is out of your teen driving vocabulary, who is at fault when your teen crashes? Let’s look at the case of Brandon Hodges of Jacksonville Florida. He was driving a Ford Explorer with nine people in it when a tire blew out. He was unable to control the car and it flipped. Only Hodges was wearing a seat belt and four teens were tragically killed in the crash.

The families of Hodges and one of the victims blame the tire manufacturer for the crash. Bobbie Krebs, mother of one of the teens killed said,

“The person to blame is the person that made that tire. … I’m not going to let him [Brandon] take the fall for them.”

But is Brandon taking the fall for the tire company, or is the tire company taking the fall for Brandon? Brandon was fifteen at the time of the crash. He didn’t have a license and was allowed to drive. He was driving a car with more passengers than seat belts (not that it mattered much since no one was using those belts). He was speeding.

But Hodge’s lawyer says none of these things are a factor in the crash, that it is all the fault of Cooper Tire who made the tire. He adds that the case reminds him of the Firestone lawsuit nine years ago. That comment reminds me of a cop out and dollar signs.

A number of Ford Explorers rolled about a decade ago due to defective Firestone tires that suffered from tread

A tire defect PLUS underinflation caused Explorer roll overs

A tire defect PLUS underinflation caused Explorer roll overs

separation when the tire was underinflated.Yes, the tire was defective, but a driver who properly maintained his/her SUV’s tire pressure was immune to the defect. Fact is tires rarely blow out without reason. Typically they are under inflated, over inflated or bald. Sometimes they hit an object in the road causing damage to them. But even in the case of the Firestone roll over scandal owners were also at fault for the crashes they were involved in. They were not accidents, they were crashes. They were avoidable.

“When under inflated, all radial tires generate excessive heat,” Crigger said. “Driving on tires in this condition can lead to tread separation. Maintaining the proper inflation level will enhance the performance and lifespan of these tires.” –Firestone

Even if the tire on Hodge’s girlfriend’s family’s SUV was defective it doesn’t detract from the fact that he was unlicensed and speeding. Just because a blow out happens doesn’t mean a crash is inevitable as well. Proper driver’s training and experience give people the necessary skills to remain control after a blow out. As an unlicnsed driver, these are two things that Hodges definitely did not possess. Would it have been completely avoidable with a licensed driver? No. People panic and they react poorly in emergency situations. Is there a higher probability that the crash would have been avoided with a licensed driver? Yes. 100%.

What message do we send to teens when we blame others for their actions?

Teens all across Florida are learning right now that they aren’t at fault when something goes wrong with their car because of the actions of Hodge’s family and lawyer. Hodges did still break the law, regardless of what other factors went into the crash and he should be held responsible for doing so. In our litigious society where everyone sues everyone for everything we are constantly shifting blame. I think we are breeding a generation of people who will feel that they are not responsible for their actions and fail to own up to them or work to resolve them.

Should parents be held responsible for the actions of their teens?

By holding parents responsible you are shifting the blame away from the teen. Even though that is true, parents can still be held responsible for their teen’s actions and have an effect on what their young drivers do. From a legal perspective you are responsible for what your teen does up until the age of 18. Anything they do wrong behind the wheel can come back to you in the form of one of the lawsuits I mentioned in the last section.

I do believe that some crashes are partially caused by negligent parents. Parents control their teens driving. Parents who do not enforce graduated drivers license rules, or who do not take away the keys when their teen is being dangerous on the road have some responsibility in their teen’s actions. Parents need to remember that teen brains have not fully developed and they do not recognize risk the same way adults do. What is stupid and dangerous to us is fun to them. Parents need to watch over their teen drivers and not be afraid to take away the keys if their young drivers are not being safe.

Of course, Hodge’s family is just trying to keep Brandon out of jail and if that means throwing Cooper Tire under the bus that is what they’ll do to keep their sixteen-year-old out of the big house. I’m sure many parents would lie if it meant keeping their child out of prison. It is hard to blame them for the goal they are trying to achieve, but I criticize them for the methods they are employing.

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2 Responses to “Is it an accident or a crash? Who is to blame when your teen wrecks a car?”

  1. […] more info:  CDC – Teen Drivers, Save Teen Drivers Blog, The Safe Driver. Take the time to visit these websites and […]

  2. […] more info:  CDC – Teen Drivers, Save Teen Drivers Blog, The Safe Driver. Take the time to visit these websites and […]

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