[Infographic] Driving Too Soon: Teen Driving in Florida

According to the National Safety Council, there is no state in the U.S. that has laws strong enough to protect teen drivers. With half of all teens being involved in a car crash before their high school graduation and facing the biggest risk in their first year of driving, it is more important than ever to understand the challenges of teens driving or riding with another teen driver too soon.

Younger drivers only make up six percent of all drivers in the country, but they are associated with 12 percent of fatal crashes. Read on to learn more about the causes of teen crashes and what can be done about it.

Causes of Most Teen Crashes

There are five primary causes of teen crashes on roads across America: lack of experience, being unprepared to drive at night, higher likelihood of speeding, the dangers of younger passengers, and the popularity of skipping seat belts.

1. Inexperienced

The more experience a driver has, the better he or she will be at handling issues like weather or the behavior of other drivers. Practice helps to reduce risk and to build experience. When a driver is more confident, the likelihood of an accident decreases.

2. Unprepared to Drive at Night

Fatal crash rates are higher for teen drivers at night, and this risk can go up any time that inclement weather occurs. Just like practice driving during the day helps to improve a driver’s ability and confidence, practice driving at night is important. Parents can assist by training a teen to drive at night until the younger driver develops better safety skills.

3. Speeding

One of the biggest challenges for teen drivers is how to adjust speed for weather and construction conditions. Attempting to drive at the same speed during snowy or rainy conditions, for example, could amplify the inexperience of a new driver and lead to critical injuries from an accident.

4. Young Passengers Pose a Risk

Simply put, younger passengers increase the risk of an accident, so it is very dangerous for teens to drive with other teens. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2008 indicates that two-thirds of teen passenger deaths were the result of riding with a teen driver. Did you know that a single teen passenger increases a driver’s risk of an accident by 44 percent?

5. Teens Often Skip Seat Belts

Teens are the least likely to wear seatbelts when compared with all over age categories of drivers, and this can cause devastating injuries. Programs to reinforce the benefits of seat belts and having parents practice this good behavior are two ways to help encourage the use of these safety mechanisms on a regular basis.

What Role Does Distracted Driving Play?

Although having passengers certainly contributes to distracted driving, there are other popular contributing factors as well. Teen drivers are already battling inexperience behind the wheel, and this can be compounded by changing radio stations, eating, or using a cell phone for texting or talking. Texting and driving has certainly received the most press in terms of teen driving risks, but it is not the only way that a driver’s attention can be pulled from the road.

Where Laws Fall Short

Household rules are currently the only way to close the gap regarding safe teen driving. These include rules about cell phone use, nighttime driving, and passengers. Research shows that parents want stricter rules for teen drivers but that too many states skip out on graduated driver licensing programs. Parents of teen drivers support restrictions on passengers and nighttime driving in particular.

What is the Graduated Driver Licensing Program?

Some states have already attempted to address tee driving risks with a Graduated Driver Licensing programs. This mean that a younger driver is eligible to attain a driver’s license over a series of phases. In the ideal scenario, 16 is the minimum age for drivers to obtain a learner’s permit with at least 30 hours of supervised driving by an adult.

The next phase of the program would be intermediate licensure, starting at age 16 ½ and lasting until age 18. The limitations during the intermediate phase include prohibitions against teen passengers and a night driving restriction beginning at 9 or 10 P.M.

The most restrictive states in the country in terms of graduated licensing provisions require a minimum of 70 hours of supervised driving practice and a night driving restriction beginning at 8 P.M.

This three-stage system is used by forty-nine states and the District of Columbia. While some of those states have enacted all the levels with the above recommendations, others have only implemented pieces. This means there is a lot of room for improvement, especially since teens continue to face such high crash risks. Strong evidence supports giving teen drivers a license at a later age.

What Can Parents Do?

To highlight the dangers of being a new driver and to encourage safe driving behavior, some parents are using a contract with their teens. A written agreement can outline privileges, rules, and restrictions when it comes to driving. Having a clear outline of what is acceptable and what isn’t reduces confusion and prevents “bending” or “forgetting” the rules.

If an exception comes up, the parent has the opportunity to review the situation in question and grant a limited exception. Encouraging the teen to ask for permission in these circumstances reinforces the importance of the contract and safe driving in general.

Supplement Driver Education

Parents should also avoid relying complete on driver education. While it’s an important beginning step for new drivers, it should not be the only education method. Poor skills are not the only cause of teen driving crashes, so parents can help to build upon driver education by also addressing lack of experience and decision-making skills. While driver’s education and even peers can help, parents often have more influence than they realize when it comes to teen drivers.

Pick the Right Vehicle

Parents can also choose vehicles with high safety ratings and history. A bigger car can be critical to protecting a teen driver from serious injuries in the event of an accident. A vehicle with higher horsepower might encourage speeding. Parents should also seek out models that have airbags for the driver’s side and the passenger side.

Verify that a vehicle has a solid safety history before even allowing a teen to take a test drive. Combined with teaching safe driving habits and reinforcing the dangers of driving with passengers and at night, parents can actually do quite a bit to protect their teen drivers and others on the road from the consequences of a major collision.

Discuss and Model

Talking about the dangers of driving distracted, modeling good behavior, and maintaining consequences for breaking a driving contract are all other ways that a parent can help reduce the risk of an accident. Talk to your children today about how they can play an important role in decreasing the fatal and serious accidents connected to teen drivers.

Are graduated licensing requirements doing enough? All data indicate that there are positive strides being made with these programs but that there is too much variation across states to help influence the meaningful results that people all over the country would hope to see. Parents can play an important role in modeling good behavior and enforcing rules for teen drivers.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney for Legal Help

If you or a loved one hurt in an accident, car accident attorney at Glotzer & Kobren, P.A. to represent your case and fight for maximum compensation that you deserve.