We at Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, have been serving the community for over 40 years now. That’s right! 2023 is our 40th anniversary, and we’re celebrating with a look back on some of our greatest achievements over the years. In honor of January’s Teen Drivers Awareness Month, we’re sharing this article originally published in 2002.
Parents, teen drivers ‘sign on for safety’
By Maggie Large, staff writer
Parents looking for a way to communicate with their teen drivers have a new tool, thanks to a local attorney. As part of a series of child safety programs, Stuart attorney Philip DeBerard’s office this month started distributing the SOS: Signing on for Safety driving contract to local schools and agencies.
DeBerard says it was a natural outgrowth of the safety programs his office has sponsored in years past, such as the You Are One of a Kind child fingerprinting program, and various bicycle safety programs including the Bike Rodeos in downtown Stuart.
“My son Philip (Jr.) just started driving on his own, and my daughter Allison just got her learner’s permit,” DeBerard explained. The driving contract, which is available through local driving schools such as Treasure Coast Safety Council as well as the St. Lucie County School District, features a nine-point checklist for teens and a three-point checklist for parents. It’s designed to be used as the house rules for young drivers before they start to drive, with language like “I realize that driving is a privilege, not a right” for the teens and “I will serve as a good role model when operating a vehicle” for parents.
Robin Delgado, community relations coordinator for the law offices of Philip DeBerard, said that the reaction has been positive, with a mention on the AAA foundation’s Web site attracting calls from across the country. “We’ve heard from teachers, parents, even grandparents are calling to get contracts for their grandchildren,” Delgado said.
Treasure Coast Safety Council spokeswoman Sherrie Garcia said instructors in the St. Lucie County office appreciate the program, which is used as part of their traffic law and substance-abuse education program. “Parents will come in and say that it’s a good idea to have something like this to discuss with their kids,” Garcia said.
Several factors prompted the program’s formation, which has been in the works for about five months. “There are a lot of distractions out there. We certainly didn’t have cell phones when I was learning to drive,” DeBerard said.
Less school transportation and more driving time for teens also contributes to dangerous driving situations for teens, which DeBerard has seen quite graphically through his law practice. “Several years ago, there were a bunch of deaths right in a row from kids who’d drive to raves down in Miami, come back at 6 a.m., fall asleep at the wheel, and lose control of the car,” DeBerard said, referring to two fatal crashes on Interstate 95 in the spring of 1996.
But above all, DeBerard said his children are the inspiration for his community outreach programs. Son Philip Jr., a 17-year-old junior at Martin County High School, said he was the first youth to sign the driving contract. “I think it makes things very clear – it’s all in writing,” Philip said.
Article originally printed in Press Journal of Vero Beach, Florida on Sunday, January 27, 2002.