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Recent fatal car accident underscores aim of graduated driver law

After 15 teenagers lost their lives up in Tazewell County in a period of 15 months, the Illinois graduated driver law became effective in 2008. This law is designed to limit the number of senseless teenage fatalities by restricting the driving privileges of teens, to some extent, until they become more experienced drivers. A recent Aurora car accident that took the lives of two teenagers and injured others may underscore the need for young drivers and their parents to revisit the requirements of the graduated driver law.

The teenagers, who were all 16 and 17 years old, were reportedly traveling to watch an evening basketball game. In dense fog, the 17-year-old driver apparently failed to stop at a red traffic light, and a semi truck smashed into the SUV he was operating. Schools in the area reported that bus services are offered for away games, especially when the games are played at night, but it was also noted that these services were seldom supported. According to the graduated driver law, drivers are only regarded as somewhat experienced after they have had their driver's licenses for longer than one year.

Drivers up to the age of 17 who have not had their driver's licenses for one year may only have one passenger younger than 20 years old. An exception exists when passengers are the driver's children or siblings. If the driver has had his or her driver's license for more than a year, unrelated underage passengers may be transported. The law also restricts teenage driving at night, and the weeknight curfew is generally 10 p.m., with an extra hour on weekend evenings. There are specific exceptions to this restriction.

When a passenger is killed or injured in an Illinois car accident, the driver of the vehicle may face civil claims for medical expenses and other financial losses. In the event of a fatality, funeral and burial expenses can also be sought. When a driver deemed negligent dies in such an accident, the injured victims and surviving families of passengers who lost their lives may file a claim against the deceased driver's estate and/or any separate owner of the vehicle involved. In order for such a claim to be successful, negligence must be proved by appropriate evidence; being underage and inexperienced and violating the graduated driver law may count against the driver.

Source: dailyherald.com, "When, how teens can legally drive or should take a bus", Susan Sarkauskas, March 11, 2015

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