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Unlicensed Lake Elsinore Teen Driver Sentenced in Riverside County Car Accident Death of Friend

December 31, 1969

19-year-old Francisco Jesus Ochoa has been sentenced to a year in jail for the Lake Elsinore car accident death of his friend, Margarita Gutierrez. The catastrophic Riverside County traffic crash happened on November 18, 2011 when Ochoa lost control of the Ford pickup they were riding and drove into a tree.

Gutierrez was pronounced dead at the crash site. Ochoa, who broke his leg in the collision, would go on to plead guilty to possession of a controlled substance, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one misdemeanor count of driving without a valid license, and not maintaining liability insurance.

While any driver of any age can behave negligently, the state of California has been conscientious about placing restrictions on new teenage drivers with the understanding that this demographic tends to lack the experience and maturity that their more seasoned, adult counterparts have when it comes to safe operation of a vehicle. However, according to a nationwide analysis of accident data, although the restrictions have caused a decline in the number of deadly motor vehicle crashes among teens in the 16- to 17- year age range, the number of fatal collisions involving teens in the 18- to 19- year age range has gone up by a nearly equivalent amount.

For example, in California, teens are given a provisional license after they pass a driving test. The license bars them from driving between 11pm and 5am. They also aren't allowed to transport any passenger younger than age 20 unless there is an adult 25-year-old or older in the vehicle. The teen is eligible to get a full license if he/she completes the provisional period without probation or suspension orders.

However, after examining over 131,000 US traffic deaths involving teen motorists that took place between 1986 and 2007, researchers are now saying while the younger teen driver category has experienced a 26% lowering in their fatality crash rate in states where driving restrictions are imposed, the fatality crash rate of 18-year-old drivers went up 12%.

Experts are not sure why this is happening. One theory is that some teens may be waiting until they are 18 to get a driver's license so they don't have to deal with restrictions. In California, for instance, the fatality rate involving 16-year-olds who have a driver's license when down from 23% in 1997 to 14% in 2007, which means some of the older teen drivers are likely beginner drivers.

"Unfortunately, whether you are a beginner driver or an experienced driver, the consequences are the same if you are involved in a deadly Riverside County, California car crash in that injuries or deaths may result," said Lake Elsinore Personal Injury Attorney Vincent Howard.

If you or someone you love was injured in a Riverside County, California traffic accident that you believe was caused by a negligent motorist, contact Howard Law, PC immediately. "Injuries sustained in a car crash can take a toll on the victim and loved ones. Suing for Riverside County personal injury or wrongful death can't make up for the harm you have suffered or the death of a family member but it can help to make you financially whole while allowing you to hold the responsible party accountable," said Lake Elsinore Car Accident Attorney Vincent Howard.

Teen driver gets year in jail for killing friend, Los Angeles Register, February 27, 2012

Teen driver restrictions a mixed bag, Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2012

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Riverside County Wrongful Death Lawyer Vincent Howard represents victims and their families throughout the county, as well as in Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, and Orange County, California.