There are many milestones in a kid’s life, but learning to drive and more importantly, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage. For most people, this is an indicator of traversing from childhood into adulthood and represents the first real taste of freedom they experience. Of course, this occurs at a time when most teenagers think they have all the answers, know what they are doing, and don’t need Mom and Dad anymore. This makes teaching teenagers the rules of the road quite a challenge. There is one tool, however, that tends to teach us all a valuable lesson – our first traffic ticket.
Almost invariably the first traffic ticket elicits a lot of, “But it’s not fair.” It is not until we are more experienced that we begin to realize that bad things don’t always happen to someone else. Drivers who are ages 15 through 19 have four times the accident rate per mile driven than drivers over the age of 20, and car accidents are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This is not simply due to a devil-may-care attitude, but not recognizing or knowing how to react to hazards is one significant cause. There is some speculation that this increase may also be the result of developmental factors such as peer influence, inability to accurately assess risk, and the volatility of emotions that teens often experience.
In doing some research for this blog, it became overwhelming apparent that inattentive driving is the primary cause of car accidents among teens. In fact, approximately 16% of all teen traffic accident fatalities of drivers under the age of 20 are the result of distracted driving. According to DMV.org, 80% of crashes involve distraction for three seconds or less before impact. I don’t think any of us have not thought to ourselves at some point, “That kind of thing only happens to other people.” It’s only after getting a couple of tickets or involved in a fender bender or two that we learn that it’s just a matter of statistics before it happens to us, and if we come out of a situation like that with only a ticket or a fender bender, we’re darned lucky.
Another major driving issue that teens face is speeding. After dreaming about the day when you finally have control of that 2,000-pound means of transportation with all of its fancy bells and whistles, it’s is easy to get caught up in this new-found power. Unfortunately, this power can result in a lack of restraint that can be devastating. Twenty-one percent of all serious crashes where teen drivers were involved were the result of teens driving too fast for road conditions and not allowing for enough stopping room should an obstacle or incident occur. Additionally, more than one-third of all fatalities that resulted when teens were driving were related to speeding, and many single vehicle accidents involving teen drivers are the result of excessive speed.
Now, I have been a traffic ticket attorney for quite some time, and I have had many opportunities to represent teen drivers. I am not singling out teens for any reason other than data shows that younger drivers who are newly licensed have higher rates of car crashes than seasoned drivers.
One way that the State of Florida tries to raise awareness and reduce the number of fatalities among teens is through the use of a graduated driver’s licensing system (GDL). Florida implemented this system in July, 1996 and in 1997 alone there was a 9% decrease in car accidents that resulted in injuries or fatalities to 15- to 17-year-old drivers. This system limits how and when teens can drive so that they slowly expand their experience at driving during times when they have lower risk conditions under which they can further develop their driving skills.
This three-stage licensing system begins with 15-year-olds who obtain a driving permit. This first step requires that these teens hold their permit for a minimum of 12 months. They also must acquire 50 hours of supervised driving experience, 10 hours of which must be at night, but only after they have held their permit for a minimum of three months.
The second stage of the GDL is the intermediate stage which begins at age 16. This stage limits the hours that a 16-year-old can drive from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., and 17-year-olds are only permitted to drive from 5:00 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. The final stage is the issuance of a full license to drivers 18 years of age.
In addition to time stipulations, some states (Florida is not one of them) also mandate who can be in the car with a teen driver and when. Those drivers who are age 15 with a learner’s permit must have an adult present, and teen drivers are also restricted in the number of non-familial teens they are allowed to have with them while driving. The reasoning behind this is because about two-thirds of the deaths of 16-year-olds due to car accidents occur when a newly licensed driver has another teen in the car. This number increases with the number of teen passengers in the car at the time of the accident. Although these constraints may seem unfair in the minds of teenagers, using a GDL system has resulted in a 10 to 30 percent decrease in teen accidents since all 50 states have adopted a GDL system of some type.
As successful as GDL programs are, parent involvement has a critical impact on helping instill good driving habits in their teen. It comes as no surprise to anyone that teenagers drive differently when they are being observed by their parents. The threat of having the keys to the car taken away is a great motivator to get teens to drive carefully. Since this is an inconceivable event to teens, one way to help your teen become a good driver is to ride with them often. Driving habits are no different than any other habits – the more you practice them, the more ingrained they become. Consequently, the more frequently you ride with your teen, the more apt they are to practice safe driving techniques which will hopefully become good driving habits.
Even with these conditions, there are several things that can keep a teen from getting a full license. Dropping out of school, getting a ticket, a DUI, or even getting caught with tobacco before being old enough to use it can all prevent teens from getting their full driver’s license. These restrictions are placed on teens by the State of Florida in an effort to reduce injuries and fatalities due to teen driving inexperience and also to encourage them to excel.
Don’t let a traffic ticket impede your teen’s biggest step toward independence. As a traffic ticket attorney in South Florida, it’s my job to find any errors that may have been made when your teenager received a traffic citation. Give the Traffic Ticket Team a call at (954) 967-9888 and let us help your teen get on the right track to good driving habits.