National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from October 20-26, is a great time to address teenage driver safety. As parents, you have a lot of power over your children’s decisions. Research shows that parents are the biggest influence on their teens’ behavior behind the wheel.
Every year thousands of teens are injured or killed in motor vehicle crashes. In fact, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for teens 15 to 18 years old. In 2017, the most recent data available, 755 teen drivers died in crashes, and a total of 2,038 teen drivers were involved in crashes where someone in the vehicle died.
Teenage passengers are more likely to be injured in a car being driven by a peer. Some of this has to do with general distraction. The high rate of crashes among teen drivers is caused primarily by their lack of maturity and driving experience coupled with overconfidence and risk-taking, according to the NHTSA. New drivers are more likely to take eyes and attention off of the road, increasing crash risks.
To try and decrease the risks that teen drivers pose to themselves and others, the state of Florida has implemented a graduated drivers license (GDL). Teen drivers must obtain their learner’s permit first and then they can graduate to receiving their driver’s license, granted they meet the requirements.
To get your Learner’s Permit in the state of Florida, teens must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 15 years old
- Provide proof of completion of a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education Course
- Provide parental consent form if under 18 and required documents for proof of identity
- Complete your permit exam
- Pass a vision and hearing test
Once you obtain a learner’s permit in Florida you have some driving privileges, but they are restricted. The rules for operating a motor vehicle with a learner’s permit are as follows:
- You must be accompanied by a licensed driver in the front passenger seat at all times. This driver must be 21 years of age or older.
- You can only drive during daylight hours for the first 3 months from the date you receive your permit.
- After the initial 3 months, you are permitted to drive between the hours of 6:00 am and 10:00 pm.
If you are under the age of 18, the following rules apply to getting your driver’s license:
- You’ve had no moving traffic citations within 12 months of the issuance of your permit. (You may have 1 traffic violation where adjudication is withheld. Adjudication withheld is when you are not convicted of the offense, while still being held guilty).
- Your parent or legal guardian, or a responsible adult 21 years or older, has certified you’ve completed at least 50 hours of driving experience, including 10 hours at night.
- You must pass a driving test.
It is a great idea to use National Teen Driver Safety Week as a way to discuss the potential road dangers that could affect your teen driver. The best thing you can do is enforce the rules of the road.
The Rules of the Road
Wear seat belts
The car should not even be started until everyone is buckled up. It does not matter if you are sitting in the front seat or back seat or even how far you are going — everyone in the vehicle should always wear a seat belt. Over half of the passengers killed in cars driven by teen drivers in recent years failed to wear a seat belt.
It is illegal to drink before you are 21, and driving drunk or under the influence of drugs is illegal at any age. In 2017, almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.
Do not get distracted
Focus on the only task you need to – driving. Do not use your phone to text or talk, and refrain from doing anything else, like eating, drinking, or fixing hair and makeup. About 10% of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in recent years were distracted at the time of the crash. Encourage your teen driver to activate the “do not disturb” feature on their phone to eliminate the distractions notifications cause.
Follow the speed limit
In 2017, almost one-third of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding. When you speed, you limit the extra reaction time you need to avoid a collision. Every driver must obey posted speed limits.
Extra passengers are not a good idea
Teen drivers are at a greater risk for a crash when they have other people in their car. This extra cargo can be a distraction to novice drivers.
As parents, don’t forget that you are a role model. When your teen driver sees you following the rules of the road, then they are more likely to do the same. If you break the rules, then they think it is OK to as well.