According to a new study released by AAA, distracted driving contributes to 58 percent of auto crashes involving teen drivers (ages 16 to 19) – a statistic that is four times higher than originally estimated. This latest study is enough to alarm concerned parents about their teen’s cell phone use, and other distractions, such as fellow passengers in the car with them. The research found that calling or texting distracted teen drivers for an average of 4 seconds right before the crash – in other words, they usually crashed without attempting to brake or steer away to avoid the accident because they were distracted.
Florida Legal Requirements: Teen Driver’s Licenses
To get your learner license in Florida, you need only be 15 years old, complete a traffic law and substance abuse education course, obtain a parental consent form, and provide proof of identity. Testing requirements are also minimal: you must answer 50 multiple choice questions, and take vision and hearing tests. Although Florida was the first state to adopt a graduated driver’s license program in 1996, it does not address the issue of distraction; during the first three months with your learner’s license, you may only drive during daylight hours and you must have a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old in the front passenger seat with you while driving.
Once you turn 16 or 17, you can obtain an intermediate (operator’s) license if you have had your learner’s license for at least one year without any traffic convictions and your parent can certify that you’ve had at least 50 hours of driving experience (10 of which must be at night). At this stage, you must also take the driving test.
Car Crashes Leading Cause of Death for Teens
The AAA study adds to a series of indications regarding just how dangerous teen driving has become: A 2014 study compiled by WalletHub indicates that car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teenagers (as well as rising insurance premiums for their parents). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,875 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 died in motor vehicle crashes and an additional 184,000 were injured in 2012 alone. In addition, teens currently have the highest crash and auto insurance rates in the nation.
And those most at risk? 16 year olds in the south, according to USA Today, especially in a state like Florida that has weak seat-belt enforcement laws. At one point, Florida had one of the worst teen fatal crash rates. Florida is unfortunately not among the many states that restrict how many passengers 16-year old drivers can have in the car, and it’s also one of the states that forbids police officers from stopping drivers solely for not wearing seat-belts.
These statistics indicate that laws must be passed (beyond existing cell phone usage bans) and parents need to take proactive steps to try and prevent distracted driving with their teen drivers. AAA specifically recommends that state laws restrict passengers to one non-family member during the first six months that a teen drives (aka more stringent graduated driver’s license programs). Where statistics indicate that transporting other teen passengers greatly increases crash risk, state programs need to do better to control for distractions, in addition to ensuring that teen drivers have enough experience before they hit the roads.
Protect Your Teen
As a parent, there are proactive measures that you can take to protect your teen driver, such as:
- Have your teen enroll in a driving course – some classes can qualify you for an insurance discount
- Have your teen sign a contract promising not to use the cell phone at all while driving
- Set rules for how many passengers can be in the car while the teen is driving
- Make sure your teen is driving in a vehicle with good safety ratings (i.e. vehicles less likely to roll and more protective in crashes)
- Have your teen promise not to get in the car with an irresponsible/inebriated driver
- Practice makes perfect – make sure your teen obtains as much practice as possible with you in the care, in a safe area, before they hit the road
- Set curfews for your teen (even if they are past the learner’s license stage) to avoid driving late at night
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel
If you are dealing with a teen accident,an attorney experienced in injuries arising from accidents can help speed the process of compensation for your family. They know how to deal with insurance companies, and they know what a fair settlement would be for your injuries. Most injury attorneys have a free consultation, and work on a contingency basis.
Florida has very specific rules about injuries from accidents, and an attorney experienced in accidents will know exactly what should been done for your particular circumstances. Our attorneys try to make things as simple as possible if your family is going through the ramifications of a car accident. Contact us for a free legal consultation today.