Category: Growing Up

How to Reduce Car Accident Risk for Teen Drivers in Austin Texas

While there are scary statistics that involve teens and driving, crashes involving 16 and 17-year-old’s have significantly declined over the past 15 years. As a young driver in a big city like Austin, it’s important that you are aware of other motorists on the road and keep your full focus on what is ahead of you. With that in mind, here are a few ways on how to reduce your chances of being involved in a car accident.

Wear Your Seat Belt

Research indicates that more than 50% of teens killed in a car accident were not wearing their seatbelt. While federal law mandated seatbelts for all vehicles more than 50 years ago, teens are the most likely demographic to not wear their seat belts. Whether you’re driving alone, with others, or only going a short distance, it’s important that you get into the habit of putting your seatbelt on before starting your vehicle. Seatbelts save lives, so make sure that you and any passengers in your vehicle are wearing their seatbelt.

Put Your Cell Phone Away

Most teens feel they can’t live without their smartphone. There are many distractions that a smartphone can bring, which is a leading cause of crashes for teens. If you use your device when driving, it will take your eyes, mind, and hands off the road, which can result in devastating consequences.

Say No to Peer Pressure

If there is more than one teen in a vehicle, the chances of being involved in a fatal car accident will increase significantly, which is why so many states across the country have enacted graduated driver’s licenses. This reduces the number of passengers a new driver can carry within their car. As a teen, you may be impressionable and want to show off to your friends, however, it’s important that you be mature and say no to peer pressure. Running through red lights, speeding, or driving aggressively will put you and other passengers in danger, so staying in control of the vehicle and being a responsible driver is key.

Utilize Teen Safety Features

There are several automakers who have designed teen driving features that promote safe driving habits. Whether it’s by limiting the car’s top speed, monitoring seat belt usage, or restricting audio volume levels, making use of teen safety technology and features can add an extra layer of protection when driving and reduce your risk of being in a car accident.

Sleep, then Drive

When passing your driving test, it’s only natural that you will want to spend every waking hour driving around and enjoying the new found freedom of the open road, however, it’s important that you are in the best frame of mind before getting in the driving seat. Getting plenty of sleep each night will help you stay focused and boost concentration levels. Sleepiness can impair your attention, coordination skills, and working memory, which will put you at a greater risk of a car crash. If you find yourself in a car accident, it’s important that you find a car accident lawyer who can guide you through your case. As a teen, passing your test and being able to legally drive can be exciting and exhilarating. To stay safe on the road, all the tips above can help keep you in control of the vehicle and minimize your risk of being in a collision.

Car Accident Checklist and Helpful Resources for Teen Drivers

A car accident can be a scary experience for anyone, but it’s especially hard for teen drivers that have not been on the road for that long. Therefore, it is important that you know how to react if you are involved in a car accident, even if you consider yourself to be a responsible and careful driver.

We have put together the following checklist of everything you need to remember if you are involved in a car accident, including some resources that could come in useful!

Check for Injuries

Immediately following a car accident, it is crucial that you stop to check yourself for any injuries before you attempt to move or get out of the car. Moving your body when you are injured could make your injuries worse. Once you know that you are ok, you should also check on any passengers in your car.

Determine whether anyone involved in the car accident requires emergency medical treatment, including anyone in the other vehicle and call the emergency services if you are able.

Stay Calm

Being involved in a car accident is scary and often frustrating. But you should remember to stay calm and not get involved in an argument with the other driver. Do not take the blame yourself or try to blame anyone else for the incident.

Contact the Police

As soon as you have checked that everyone is alright and not in any danger, you should contact the police so that they can assess both drivers and address the situation. If there are any witnesses to the car accident, be sure to get their name and contact information so that you can reach them for a statement in the future if necessary.

Seek Professional Advice

When car accidents occur, there is often some conflict over who is at fault, and this can cause problems for the drivers involved. Therefore, we recommend that you get in touch with an attorney that handles car accident cases who can help to navigate you through the process.

Even if you were not at fault for the car accident and have every right to claim compensation, there is no guarantee that it is going to be easy. An experienced car accident lawyer will have the skills and knowledge required to support you, help you receive what you are entitled to, and help maximize your financial and physical recovery.

Call a Parent or Guardian

If you are a new teen driver, then the procedure that you must follow after a car accident can feel overwhelming and anxiety-provoking. Therefore, it’s a good idea to call a parent, guardian, or trusted adult to attend the scene as soon as possible. This will make the experience easier for you to deal with. Often, when a car accident occurs and a teen driver is involved, they unfairly get the blame. Having an adult with you will provide you with extra support.

Despite how unsettling a car accident can be when you are a teen driver, by following this checklist and using these helpful resources, the process will be easier for you to handle.

3 Tips for Teens Looking at Renting Their First Place

If you are a teen looking for your first place, congratulations! You are entering the exciting world of independent living. However, as exciting as this is, there are many mistakes you can potentially make. Thankfully, many of these errors are easily avoidable. There are many things you can do to better prepare yourself for this new responsibility. Here are three such tips.

Don’t Go Solo

Living on your own is exciting and tempting, but keep in mind it’s a difficult thing to do. Living with roommates will make the type of apartment or house you can rent significantly more affordable. Furthermore, it makes it easier for you to divide up responsibilities, like cleaning and maintenance. Just make sure you only agree to a roommate whom you can trust or who comes highly recommended from someone you know and respect. Be sure to watch out for any red flags in potential roommates.

Watch Out for Scams

As a teen, unscrupulous landlords may look at you as easy prey. Don’t be that person. Instead, be an informed consumer. For example, according to FirstKey Homes, you should look around and compare prices and have a general understanding of the average market value of homes. Remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Furthermore, if possible, have a lawyer review your lease before you sign it as this document can easily work against you if you sign something without understanding its implications.

Your Credit and Legal History Matter

So you’re young, and you think that you can get away with anything, right? Not so fast. This is the point when the life decisions you have made begin catching up with you. For example, according to Nova Credit, your credit history, or lack thereof, can be used against you when a landlord is making a decision about whether to rent his or her apartment or house to you. The same can apply to a criminal record or other legal mistakes you have made. As such, it’s important to remember that the decisions you make as an adult can matter. Keep that in mind before making a potentially risky financial or legal decision.

Renting a new place can be a tremendously important decision as it can help you learn what it is like to live on your own, build a credit history and create tremendous memories. Just remember that it is a major decision, and you should treat it with respect, diligence and preparation.

It’s Just A Fender Bender, Right? How Much A Minor Accident Can Cost You

The first time behind the wheel is exciting, but for your parents they can be terrified. The minute you get behind the wheel, their insurance rates are going to go up. Of course, their primary concern is your safety, but that won’t stop them from getting upset over even a small accident. Even the smallest of accidents can end up costing you and your parents quite a bit of money. In some cases, it can be up to $5000. Here are a few things that might contribute to those costs.

Primary Costs

If you are at fault in an accident, you are responsible to pay for all primary costs. These costs include healthcare for those involved, and damages to both cars. When you first get out of your car, it may not seem like much happened, but some damages aren’t easily seen. Other passengers may feel fine, but they may end up suffering from whiplash. If they go see a doctor, you may need to pay for it.

Even the car can have unseen damage. All-wheel and rear wheel drive vehicles can sustaindamage to their transmissions in a minor fender bender. This damage won’t be visible but can be heard over time when the engine is running. Transmissions are expensive. If the owner of the other car suspects damage has been done, you could be paying a hefty sum.

Secondary Costs

Secondary costs can be a little difficult to understand. A secondary cost is what you must pay to cover secondary damages. Primary damages are those that are caused directly by the accident. Secondary damages are those that are caused by the primary accident. For example, suppose your fender bender damages the wheel on someone else’s car. If this goes unnoticed, the damaged wheel could cause damage to the car’s axel down the road. If this happens, you could end up providing some type of compensation for both the wheel and the axel. This same concept can apply to medical issues that those involved in the accident experience. Depending on the type of compensation you have to offer, your costs can go way up.

Insurance Costs

Every driver is legally required to have insurance on their car. The amount you pay for insurance depends on the amount of coverage you have on your car and your driving record. Generally, your insurance payments start high, and then go down over time. If, however, you have an accident, your insurance company will consider you a higher risk customer and increase your payments. Depending on the seriousness of the accident, this can cost you and your parents a significant sum.

Legal Costs

If you were the cause of the accident, you can end up paying a hefty fine. Cities and states impose fines on certain behaviors to discourage bad driving practices. For example, in Utah, if you cause injury to another person while texting and driving, you can be fined up to $10,000. What’s more, you could spend 15 years in prison! These punishments may seem strict, but driving is a serious matter. You risk the lives of others when you speed, text, or drink when driving.

Property Costs

Not every small accident is going to involve two cars. It is quite common for drivers to accidentally back their cars into someone’s property. This can be something like a mailbox, a fence, or the wall of a house. If you do this, don’t try to cover it up by driving away. Not only is this dishonest, it is illegal. It is going to be expensive enough to pay the owners the cost of repairing their property. You don’t want to deal with the consequences of a hit and run. If the damage is only to property, a hit and run is usually only a class C misdemeanor. But this still comes along with up to $750 in fines and a 90-day prison stay.

After reading all the costs associated with an accident, hopefully you aren’t too scared to drive. If you are a safe and responsible driver, most of these costs won’t be a problem for you. Just remember, your friends and phone can wait when you are driving. Nothing is more important than arriving safely at your destination.

Advice for Teens on How to Stay Safe When Driving with Friends

Teen drivers love opening the windows, feeling the breeze blow through their hair and blast the radio. An entirely new sense of freedom is earned when teen get their driver’s licenses, but with this new freedom also comes a major responsibility.

Safe driving habits, especially when friends are in the car, can prevent accidents and injuries.

Each year, 2,300+ teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in auto accidents and 300,000 have to be treated for injuries in the emergency room. Inexperience is a major contributing factor to teen accidents, but good decision making behind the wheel is possible if you adhere to safe driving recommendations.

Wear Your Seatbelt

Texas, and many other states, require that drivers wear seatbelts. Your passengers should also be wearing their seatbelts. The risk of death when wearing a seatbelt is reduced by 45% and serious injuries are reduced by 50%.

You always want to reduce the risk of accidents, but wearing a seatbelt is in your control and immediately lowers the risk of death or injuries.

Since most autos have a reminder when you’re not wearing a seatbelt, it’s almost impossible to forget to wear your seatbelt in newer vehicles.

Zero-tolerance for Alcohol

You and your friends should not drink and drive. A lot of teens go to parties, feel the pressure to drink a beer or two (or three), and they wrongly believe they’re sober enough to get behind the wheel.

Don’t take the risk of being impaired and driving.

You’ll put your life, your friends’ lives and the lives of other drivers at risk if you get behind the wheel after drinking. A lot of states have zero-tolerance laws for alcohol. You don’t want to lose your license or freedom to drive when you’ve only just earned them.

Don’t Overcrowd Your Vehicle

Vehicle overcrowding is popular among teens. When your friends need rides and you’re at the same party, movie or event, it’s hard to say “no” if someone asks for a ride. All of a sudden, people are sitting on each other’s laps and your vehicle which normally sits five people is now filled with eight people.

Studies show that when teens have passengers in their vehicles, they’re willing to take more risks and can be distracted more easily.

When three or more people are in the vehicle with a teen, the chances of a fatal crash rise 300% to 400%.

Limit Night Driving

Low visibility increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident at any age. Teens that drive at night are at a much higher risk of being involved in an accident. In 2010, it was found that 39% of teenager fatalities occurred between 9pm and 6am.

Roughly 24% of those accidents occurred after midnight.

Multiple factors are at play here, including:

  • Low visibility
  • Fatigue

If you do have to drive at night, make sure you’re not suffering from fatigue and choose a route that is well-lit.

Be Smart in Bad Weather

Bad weather does not discriminate. Both seasoned drivers and new drivers who just passed their driving tests are at-risk of bad weather causing an accident. Teens have the benefit of being tech-savvy.

Download a local weather app and set up notifications that can help you deal with ice, snow, heavy rains, hail, tornadoes or even flash floods, which are common in Texas.

If you know severe weather is on its way, you can:

  • Stay home
  • Stay at a friend’s house
  • Stay in a non-low-lying area

If you do have to drive through snow or ice, be sure to maintain or lower your speed limit. Do not drive into flooded areas because it’s easy to mistake a puddle for an actual flood.

When roads are blocked, do not go around the road signs and into danger.

As you continue to drive, you’ll learn maneuvers that you can use to prevent skidding on ice or hydroplaning on water. But the best course of action is to practice avoidance to lower your risks of an accident.

Keep Music Levels Moderate

Blasting the music and driving down the highway is almost a rite of passage for teens, but you need to be able to hear sirens and horns around you. If you live in a major city, like Houston, you’ll be in trouble if you can’t hear your surroundings.

It’s better to keep music levels moderate to be more aware of your surroundings.

Pets Shouldn’t Be Lap Passengers

Pets can be great companions in a car, but they can also be a danger. If you plan on driving with a dog, keep the dog in the backseat with a divider between you and the dog. Driving with a dog that’s loose, scared or in your lap is dangerous.

A dog that becomes frightened or that jumps into your lap is a major distraction and can quickly lead to an accident.

Put Down Your Phone

Distracted driving was a factor in 8.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities in 2019. If you’re at a stoplight, look around you and you’ll be sure to see people of all ages on their phones. A text message or notification can divert your attention long enough to cause an accident.

You should put your phone down when driving.

It’s tempting to send someone a Snap or to FaceTime someone while driving, but the risk is too high. You put your life and the lives of other drivers at risk when you’re driving and texting, taking pictures or trying to send someone a message on Instagram.

Apps can be downloaded and installed, which won’t allow you to use your phone when your vehicle is in motion.

If you have to make a call or text someone back, pull into a parking lot where you can safely park the vehicle and respond.

It only takes a second or two of distraction to get in an accident.

Teenagers deserve to make lifelong plans with their friends that they can keep. Safe driving is the key for you, as a teen and adult, to have fun and freedom without putting your life at-risk unnecessarily.

The Right to Vote: What You Need to Know About Becoming a Registered Voter

Voting is one of the cornerstones of American democracy, but in order to actually cast a ballot, you have to register to do so first. While this is usually easy, there are three things you have to keep in mind before you register to vote.

How to Register

The ways that you can register to vote depend on your state. Some states accept only paper forms for voter registrations, and other states allow you to register to vote online. Furthermore, there are different identification requirements for registration and voting, all of which vary by state. While these requirements are not usually overwhelming, it’s better to check what you need before you actually register to vote so that you can get it done right and make sure you’re registered in time for the next election.

Your Responsibilities

Being registered to vote does require some responsibilities. In most states, you have to vote at least once every few years in order to stay active and on the voter lists. If you register to vote in another state, you will have to make sure that you do not attempt to vote in the old location. Keep in mind that registered voters may be called to serve on a jury, although it is also possible to be called to serve on a jury if you aren’t registered.

Deadlines and Timeframes

Deadlines as to when you can register to vote vary from state to state. Some states are more restrictive, requiring you to register up to a month or longer before a primary or general election. Other states, however, allow for same-day voter registration. This means that you can actually register to vote and then cast your very first ballot on the same day. Keep in mind that the above notes about how you can register to vote may impact deadlines as well. For example, states with same-day registration options may require that you register at a county courthouse, or you may be able to register directly at your polling place from an internet-connected device.

As you can see, the specifics about where, when and how you can register to vote vary wildly. This is because voter registration is a state-run procedure. You have to check with the state in which you are registering to vote for more information about requirements. However, this is all part of the duty that comes with being a good citizen and an active voter. Just make sure you know what is needed before you actually register to vote.

Related: How Can I Understand Politics? Tips for Teens

3 Tips for Teens Filing Their Taxes for the First Time

Having a part-time job is fun but also demanding as you balance school, work, and activities each week. Something you may not realize is that you need to report your taxable income to the IRS. If your income is above a certain amount, then you are required to tell the IRS how much you made even if your parents claim you as a dependent. You might even need to pay some taxes. This can be hard, so read on for a few helpful tips!

Get All Your Information

The first task is to gather all the information you need. You will need a copy of your W-2, which is a mailed statement of your work income from your employer. You will need your legal name and your tax ID number. Your tax ID number is usually your Social Security Number (SSN). If you do not have an SSN, then you will need an ITIN number, which you can request when you file your tax form.

Reasons to File Your Taxes

Whether you made enough money during the year to owe taxes, it may be the case that your employer still subtracted money from your paycheck each pay period. This money went to the government as an advance payment for your taxes. It is possible that this advance payment is more than you actually owe. In that case, you will need to file your taxes to get a refund. It could also be the case that you owe more taxes than what was already paid. If that is the case, you’ll need to send the IRS a check.

If your yearly earned income from your job is above $12,200, then you are required to file. If your self-employment income (from work you do yourself, like yard work, babysitting, et cetera) is above $400 for the year, then you are required to file. But it is always good practice to report your income even if you don’t make enough to owe taxes.

Save Your Documents

Saving your earning information is an important part of receiving money. Whether you work for an employer or earn self-employment income for various work-related activities, you should always keep records that list the work you did, the times you worked and the amount you earned. This is important in case the information your employer has about your income is wrong. If you are self-employed, you need to know if you made more than $400 for the year. Also, if you are self-employed, keep your receipts for any purchases made for your work. You may be able to subtract these costs from your income. At this time, it’s generally recommended that you also get things ready for next year’s return as well.

Filing taxes is part of the responsibilities we all face as citizens. Just like voting, reporting your taxable income will be your civic duty as an adult. Filing your taxes now will help prepare you for the future.

Saving up money for a car? Click here to learn more about this exciting life step!

Got Your Permit? What You Should Know About ‘Passenger Negligence’

Many of the licensed drivers in the United States are unaware of the term passenger negligence, which is particularly and unfortunately more true for teenagers than it is for any other age group. One does not really need to have a driving license or be in the driving seat to cause an accident through actions that can be legally considered as passenger negligence, so it can be anyone, including a 13-year-old teenager at fault.

What is Passenger Negligence?

Passenger negligence is quite a variable term, but in its essence, it can be defined as actions taken by one or more passengers within a running vehicle that contribute partly or completely towards an ensuing accident. In most cases, it involves hampering the driver’s ability to drive properly in some way, be it intentional or not.

What Exactly are the Passenger Actions that Qualify?

It’s difficult to list every possible action that can potentially be considered as neglectful and dangerous behavior from a passenger because the possibilities are vast. Nonetheless, a few of the common examples should be enough to show how not to behave as a passenger, and when to stop the car when one has a co-passenger who is exhibiting dangerous behavior.

  • Blocking the view of the driver in a running car; anything from a cellphone screen to covering their eyes mid-drive as a prank
  • Affecting the driver’s control over the vehicle by grabbing the wheel, pressing the gas/brakes, etc.
  • Constant or sudden yelling or making a loud noise while in a moving vehicle (YouTubers take note)
  • The distraction of the driver via any willful action
  • Talking unnecessarily with the driver in a running car; keep the chitchat to a minimum
  • Supplying alcohol or any other psychoactive substances to the driver in a moving vehicle or encouraging them to partake
  • Encouraging a drunk or otherwise affected driver to take the wheel

What Can You Do If you are a Victim of Passenger Negligence?

If you become aware that one or more of the passengers in a car are at fault for an accident you are involved in, immediately call a lawyer near you. Make sure that they have a good reputation and you will find out if you have a legally valid case on your hands after the first meeting.

People from all age groups can and have been found to be negligent passengers, so it’s not a crime that’s exclusive to teenagers. However, teenagers and young adults are found to be involved in a majority of such incidents, which is to be expected given that they are still kids. It is the duty of parents to teach their kids how to behave as a passenger because good passenger etiquette can at times be the difference between life and death.

Breaking Into the Entertainment Industry Isn’t as Impossible as Your Parents Think—Here’s How to Do It

A career in the entertainment industry is something that a lot of young people imagine for themselves. If you are one of these young people, it is likely that at some point you have been told by your parents or another adult to think of something more realistic. The truth is, finding an entry point into the entertainment industry is not as difficult as most parents believe.

It’s All About Who You Know

Once you have decided a career in the entertainment industry is for you, it is time to develop and nurture every contact that you can find. You can begin by making a list that includes all the people with whom you are familiar that may be able to help you. Ask your family and friends if they know names you can add to your list. You should remember that the most powerful people in the industry are not particularly well-connected to people looking for entry-level talent and will likely not be much help to you. A better course of action is to seek out people who are in most cases a little older than you are who currently work entry-level positions. Another thing to master as you search for your entry into the entertainment industry is to be persistent but not pushy.

Get the Skills to Pay the Bills

Like any other industry, you will have a better chance of success if you take the time to further your education and seek out proper training. You should choose an educational path that will provide you the skills you need to succeed in the entertainment industry. If you desire to spend your time in front of the camera, you may be interested in educational paths like drama or theater arts. There are also limitless educational choices that will prepare you for a career in entertainment in other capacities including entertainment design and digital production.

Learn the Industry

Your conversations with the people on your list of contacts as well as your search for a place in the entertainment industry will go much smoother if you first perform a little homework on your own. You should know whether you want to work in television, radio, or film and what entry-level opportunities each of these mediums present. You should also become familiar with the major companies in the industry and know who is responsible for running each of these companies.

Whether your dream is to run a studio, produce a series for primetime television, or deliver a dramatic performance that brings audiences to tears, the entertainment industry is an exciting career path that provides hundreds of options to you. It is also much easier to work your way into one of these positions than most people realize.

Here’s another article you might enjoy: Six Summer Jobs You Won’t Find at the Mall

Big Social Issues Facing Gen Z and Beyond

Every age group faces unique stressors and challenges, but few have ever had to face the many burdens as Generation Z. On one hand, they have more opportunities and access than almost any other generation in world history. On the other, they face unique challenges.

Mental Health

One in five Americans have some sort of mental illness, but those numbers are even higher among younger people, like those in Generation Z. Indeed, mental illness rates are getting worse across the board, but that trend is sharpest among Generation Z. There are many reasons for this, including a world that is filled with conflict, increased stress from academics and increased social media use. However, there is good news as well, as younger generations tend to feel less stigma when it comes to discussing and seeking mental health. Thankfully, while they face many mental health problems, they are also much more willing to face these problems head-on.

Climate Change

As the youngest generation that is currently alive, Generation Z will likely have to deal with climate change challenges more than any other generation. They are very aware of this fact and tend to support policies that will help lessen how mankind is affecting the issue. For example, renewable sources of energy bring a lot of benefits, and they are gaining more support politically. Generation Z tends to be more supportive of renewable energy use and is more willing to pay for its use themselves.

A Changing Job Market

There’s no question about it: The future of work is changing. More jobs are becoming automated, and this is causing dramatic effects when it comes to career and educational choices. Jobs that require critical thinking, entrepreneurship, or executive function are relatively safe, but many other jobs are on the chopping block as computers become savvier. This means that members of Generation Z not only have to find careers that fit their vocational desires, but they must also pick careers that are unlikely to be automated. This, of course, adds a high degree of stress to an already-complicated decision.

The issues that face Generation Z are simultaneously deeply interpersonal and existential, and it’s no wonder that this generation is more stressed than any before it. Hopefully, all of us will learn how to better support this age cohort and help them become functional members of society.

Here’s another article you might find helpful: What Does All That Paperwork You Sign Before Starting Your First Job Mean?