For many Florida teens, a driver’s license is a rite of passage. Even with graduated licensing, getting a Florida driving license involves getting a permit and getting basic training behind the wheel. While teens have to pass a road test to get their driver’s license, most newly-licensed teens do not have the extensive experience needed to stay truly safe on the roads. As well, many teen drivers may be at risk because they are easily swayed by peer pressure and because some teens overestimate their driving skills.
Although teens account for only 7% of all drivers, nearly 14% of fatal car accidents involve teen drivers. Male teens under 24 years of age have a an auto-related death rate that is 2.5 times the national average. For teens ages 15-19, car accidents are the leading cause of death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4, 877 teens were killed in 2000 alone as a result of preventable car accidents. Many more sustained serious injuries as a result of accidents. According to the NHTSA, 36% of teens involved in car accidents in 2000 were drinking and 58% were speeding when a collision took place. In addition to causing injuries to teen drivers, car accidents involving teen drivers also cause serious injuries to innocent motorists and bystanders. Many Florida head injuries, spinal cord injuries and other serious injuries are caused by teen drivers each year.
Researcher Dr. Dennis Doverspike has studied teen drivers and risk-taking attitudes among teens at the University of Akron and has concluded that it can take years for driving skills to develop and most teens simply do not have those years of on-the-road experience it takes for driving to become automatic. As well, Dr. Doverspike notes that no states require teens to demonstrate a proficiency in high-speed traffic or different weather conditions before getting a license.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), many accidents involving teen drivers occur when a driver has been drinking, during recreational driving, after dark, and when there are multiple passengers in the car. However, according to the NHSTA, when parents become more involved, teen car accident risks can dip. There are many things that the NHSTA reports parents can do to help keep teen drivers safe:
1) Insist on seat belt use. According to the most recent statistics, up to 50% of teens who were killed in car accidents in previous years were not wearing their seat belt at the time of impact. Many Florida spinal cord injuries and brain injuries could be prevented each year as well if everyone wore a seat belt every time they stepped into a car.
2) Get familiar with your teen’s driving habits. Drive with your teen. Does he or she drive aggressively, use a cell phone while driving, or exhibit other bad habits? Consider your own habits – are you a good role model for your teen when it comes to driving? If your teen is making dangerous mistakes, consider additional training and classes to boost your teen’s driving skills.
3) Discourage your teen from taking the car on the weekend and at night. This is when car accidents are most likely to happen. At the very least, ensure that your teen gets some training with a professional instructor specifically addressing high-traffic driving and night driving.
4) Have your teen pay their own car insurance. Since any infraction can increase premiums, this can be a nice motivator for your teen to keep their records clean.
5) Restrict the number of friends your teen can have in the car at one time. Teen drivers are more likely to crash if they have multiple passengers.