As the mom of one licensed teen driver and one soon-to-be licensed teen driver, and as a Sarasota personal injury attorney with (too much) experience handling crashes caused by teen drivers, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to best navigate this rite of passage. Florida’s Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) offers some help. During their “intermediate license” years (ages 16 and 17), they can’t drive alone after 11 pm and 1 am, respectively.
But in thinking about my own overconfidence and inexperience as a teen driver and data like this:
- While only 14% of our population, teens account for 30% of the costs associated with motor vehicle crashes.
- In their first year of driving one in five 16 year olds will have an accident.
- Teenage males are twice as likely as teenage females to be involved in a fatal crash.
- The presence of teen passengers increases the risk of a crash and with each additional passenger the risk goes up.
… I’m not satisfied with simply complying with Florida law. Instead, I’ve put myself in the running for the “you’re the worst mom in the world” award and have instituted some house rules:
- The occurrence of fatal crashes rises with more nighttime driving, an earlier nighttime driving curfew for at least the first six months makes sense.
- Restricting my teens from giving friends rides for the first six months, too.
- Getting a device that prevents my teens from texting, taking selfies, using social media and otherwise using the phone while driving. While I’m not endorsing any particular product, the one that looks good to me is the “Cellcontrol.” It not only prevents the driver from using his or her phone, it also allows monitoring of things like speed and location.
Still room for improvement
On my big picture wish list is that the Florida legislature will act to make our roads safer. Additional restrictions to our GDL law make sense. Most other states’ GDL laws restrict the number of passengers a teen driver can carry (46 states) and ban cell phone use by novice drivers (36 states). The “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving” law, Section 316.305, Florida Statutes also needs work.
Since 2013, texting while driving in Florida is illegal, but it’s only a secondary offense. It’s also riddled with exceptions, and the penalty for a first-time violation is a mere $30 fine. In my view as both a Florida motor vehicle crash lawyer and a parent, these types of statutory improvements can only save lives.