I’m not sure how many people know that National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 20-26, 2019. I’m also not sure how many teen drivers would take this seriously. Maybe it should be called “Parents Talk to Your Teen Drivers Week.”
The leading cause of death among teenagers is car crashes and the youngest drivers are the most at risk. Sixteen-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age and the fatal crash rate for 16–17-year-olds is 3 times higher than drivers 20 and older. According to the CDC, “in 2016, 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed, and 292,742 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.”
Horrible statistics for sure, but there is some positive news. Since 1979 crash-related fatalities among teens have been decreasing, down more than 70%! A few important changes occurred during this time, including a rise in the drinking age to 21, the enactment of laws requiring the use of seat belts, technology such as traction control and airbags, and graduated licensing. In 1996, Florida became first state to enact graduated licensing whereby a new driver gets a supervised learner’s permit, followed by a license with nighttime restrictions (when teen driving fatalities are 4 times more likely), and finally a license with full privileges. In Florida, 16-year-olds are restricted from driving from 11pm-6am, while 17-year-olds are restricted from 1pm-5am.
Other factors within the control of teen drivers are:
- Distracted driving: In 2017, 3,166 people died as a result of distracted driving. Cell phones are the most obvious source of distraction. As of October 1, 2019 Florida law prohibits anyone from holding and using a cell phone while traveling in a school zone or active construction zone. Violations carry a fine and a 3-point penalty. A bill being considered by the Florida legislature might expand upon that, making it illegal to drive while “manually holding or otherwise touching a wireless communications device.”
- Excessive Speed: Excessive speed is a factor in just over a quarter of teens’ fatal crashes.
- Drinking & Driving: Underaged drinking is illegal, and DUI is illegal…just don’t.
- Seat Belts: 48% of teen drivers who died crashes were not wearing a seat belt.
On this National Teen Driver Safety Week, the attorneys and staff of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith urge parents to speak to their teen drivers about these important safety issues.
Blog by Partner Steven Clarfield