Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the No. 1 cause of death among adolescents and young adults. They are one of the few causes of death that we can prevent. Over the years, state laws related to teen driving have changed, and it is important for parents to understand what these laws are and how to keep their teen drivers safe. Jasmine Reese, M.D., from the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic, shares important information for parents and teens.
How big is this problem of teen-related motor vehicle accidents?
Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that more than 2,000 teens in the United States ages 16-19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes and more than 200,000 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle crash-related injuries. In one given year, Florida had more than 38,000 teen driver crashes, with 71 teen driver fatalities and 38 teen passenger fatalities.
What are some things that put our adolescents at risk for motor vehicle accidents?
Some behaviors that put teen drivers at risk include inexperience at driving, underestimating dangerous situations, not using a seat belt, speeding, and talking or texting while driving.
How are Florida laws protecting our teen drivers?
In the state of Florida, we have a graduated driver license system in place to help protect our teen drivers. This system allows for new drivers to gain driving experience while under lower-risk conditions and under supervision. The law outlines a graduated license approach for teen drivers’ ages 15-17 years old.
The teen driver learner license has several requirements including a minimum age of 15 years, completion of a traffic law and substance abuse education course and parental consent. There is also a written exam component and specific time curfews in place for the teen’s safety. They should be driving only during daylight hours for the first 90 days and always be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years of age or older. During this supervised driving time, they will need to complete at least 50 hours of driving time and hold this permit for at least one year before graduating to the next step.
The next step is the operator license where the teen needs to be at least 16 years old and includes driving time restrictions between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. (unless driving to or from work). A 17-year-old driver may drive between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m., and an 18-year-old driver may drive unsupervised without any time restrictions.
How important is school for a teen driver?
Very important! Minors also are required to be compliant in their school attendance to be eligible to hold a license. Poor school attendance can actually lead to having driving privileges suspended.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.