Helping teen drivers be safe drivers
I remember, fondly, my 16-year-old self on the one driving lesson I had with my mother. She let me drive her to the deli to pick up fixings for dad’s lunch. I made a left turn on a green light, directly in front of a car coming through the intersection. Yeah, that other car had the right of way, as I learned from that near miss, yet I thought I owned the road.
Lack of driving experience is a main factor leading to high crash rates among teen drivers. They don’t know all the rules of the road. In a study on teen driver fatalities, deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers are up 19 percent nationally. However, in Florida, teenage driver fatalities declined significantly between the first six months of 2011 and 2012. There were 14 teen driving deaths in 2011; 5 in 2012. That is still 5 too many.
The 2012 preliminary data from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association attributes the decline in teen driving deaths to the economic downturn. Teens are more affected by recessionary times than older drivers. The cautionary message: With the uptick in the economy, more teens are likely to be back in a position to afford the privilege of driving, and that could be dangerous.
The introduction of graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws has been credited with reducing teen driving deaths. In 1996, Florida became the first state to adopt a GDL program, which allows for on-the-road driving practice, supervised by an experienced driver.
First-time drivers in Florida are required to take a drug and alcohol course online, and there are online courses to get your learner’s permit and prepare for getting a driver’s license. Teens need to have a learner’s permit for one year without any traffic citations to get an intermediate license. Requirements to apply for a driver’s license include having a parent or guardian certify that you’ve completed at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, 10 hours of it at night. Then, teens visit the Department of Motor Vehicles for the driving test.
Parents, remember that your teen under the age of 17 cannot drive around between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., unless they are with a driver who is 21 years of age or older and holds a valid driver license, or they are driving to or from work. Once your teen has his or her 17th birthday, they may not operate a motor vehicle between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., under the same conditions as before.
Those are the rules for teen drivers, and they appear to work at “graduating” your kid from a beginner to an experienced driver – and those rules save lives.