In March, our South Florida car accident attorneys presented information regarding the rising number of deaths among Florida teen drivers. One way to keep Florida’s young drivers safer on the roadways, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is to tighten the laws surrounding driver’s licensing requirements.

In a recent study, the IIHS focused on the restriction levels in the Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The IIHS found that by toughening the laws in five components of GDL’s, states can improve safety among teen drivers. If every state adopted the recommendations, the IIHS estimates over 500 lives could be saved and at least 9,500 automobile crashes could be prevented each year. If Florida raised its GDL program standards to the IIHS recommendations, the Institute believes the state could see a 45% reduction in fatal teen accidents.

According to Florida’s “Traffic Crash Statistics Report 2010,” in 2010, there were 26,848 automobile crashes involving a teen driver. Of those, 80 of the teen drivers were killed, 64 teen passengers died and 10,563 teen drivers were injured. 7,980 teen passengers were seriously injured in the accidents. Although these statistics indicate a decrease by nearly 9% of teen accidents over 2009, the preliminary 2011 statistics indicate teen crashes are on the rise again.

The five key components and the corresponding minimum standards for the GDL set by the IIHS are as follows:

  • Permit age:16-years-old;
  • Practice driving hours: 65 hours;
  • License age: 17-years-old;
  • Night driving: 8pm start of restriction;
  • Teen passenger restrictions: No teen passengers allowed.

“Even the best states can do better,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. “There’s room for improvement across the board, and states could see immediate reductions in fatal crashes and collision claims as soon as the beefed-up provisions are in force.”

Unfortunately, Florida does not meet the minimum requirements in any category. Florida 15-year-olds can obtain a driver’s permit, new drivers need only practice 50 hours, 16-year-olds can obtain a driver’s license, night driving restrictions begin at 11:00 pm, and two or more teen passengers can ride with new teen drivers.

Restricting teen passengers can make the largest safety gains. According to the IIHS, the risk of fatal automobile wrecks increases when teen passengers are permitted in a car with a teen driver. When teen passengers are prohibited, the IIHS notes, 15-to-17-year-old drivers’ fatal crash rates are 21 percent lower than when two or more are allowed. Just one teen passenger in the car reduces the rate 7 percent. If Florida changed its law from two passengers to none allowed with teen drivers, the IIHS estimates the state would see a 21% reduction in fatal crashes.

Meeting the IIHS standards in permit age and licensing could result in a 13% reduction in fatal crashes for each of the components. Restricting nighttime driving after 8:00 pm could net a 7% reduction in fatal crashes. Increasing practice hours would result in just a one percent reduction in crashes.
McCartt says that to realize safety gains, states do not have to adopt the nation’s toughest laws. It pays off to strengthen one or two components. In order to maximize the benefits of graduated licensing, however, lawmakers are encouraged to consider the strongest provisions.

Our Treasure Coast car accident lawyers support tougher restrictions if it will help keep our teens safer on Florida highways. We encourage parents and adults to continue to reinforce safe driving behaviors in their teens. We also encourage parents to take the initiative to follow IIHS recommendations regardless of our laws. The statistics show our teens can be kept safer on our highways when driving comes at an older age.

About Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney

The law firm of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, has provided professional and compassionate legal assistance to personal injury and accident victims in South Florida on the Treasure Coast since 1975. The firm’s practice areas include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, product liability, dog bite injuries, swimming pool accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims.

The firm represents clients throughout the South Florida communities of Port St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Stuart, Vero Beach, and Palm Beach, and across the state of Florida. For more information, call (800) 299-8878 or use the firm’s online contact form.