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Mississippi has among the weakest teen driving laws in the U.S.

The number of Mississippi teens involved in fatal vehicle crashes has been increasing. In 2015, over 100 young drivers (ages 15 to 20) were killed on our roads. That was an increase of 36 percent over the previous year's total of 76. In Mississippi, teens can get a learner's permit at just 15.

Safety advocates place part of the blame on the state's failure to implement graduated licensing laws. According to a spokeswoman for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, our laws for teen drivers are among the weakest in the U.S.

That group recommends seven "optimal Graduated Driver Licensing laws," but Mississippi has only one of those -- a 12-month holding period that is twice the group's recommended period. However, it applies only to applicants under 17. The group's representative says, "GDL programs are essential as they provide novice teen drivers the opportunity to learn to drive under lower-risk conditions and phase in driving privileges gradually to build up their driving skills."

A state representative, whose young cousin was killed in a single-vehicle crash last year as he drove to school when his car ran off the road and struck a tree, says that one-car crashes aren't uncommon among teens. Although texting behind the wheel is illegal in Mississippi, he blames the use of cellphones for many teen crashes. He says, "They really don't respect the law, and they aren't well-trained like teen drivers use to be." His cousin was reportedly speeding at the time of his crash.

States vary significantly in their graduated licensing laws for novice drivers. Some prohibit driving in the overnight hours, limit the number of passengers allowed in the car, prohibit all use of cellphones (hands-free or hand-held) and/or require a minimum number of hours of supervised driving before a teen can get a non-restricted license.

If you are involved in an accident with a teen driver, you may be able to seek compensation from the teen's parents to cover the cost of injuries and damages. An experienced Mississippi personal injury attorney can provide guidance on your options.

Source: The Clarion-Ledger, "Group: Mississippi's teen driving laws too weak," Jimmie E. Gates, Nov. 11, 2016

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