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Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a reduction in the number of deaths nationwide among 16- and 17-year-old drivers from 2007 to 2010, just last month we reported that teen driving deaths have begun to increase again. In fact, in the first half of 2011, teenage traffic fatality deaths increased by nearly six percent nationwide, and Florida was no exception. Last Thursday, USA Today, hoping to raise public awareness that teen drivers are at risk on America’s highways, published a special report entitled “Making Teen Driving Safer.”

Some parents and their teen drivers are already well aware of the dangers of driving, and many are seeking out driving programs designed to enhance teenage driving skills.

According to the USA Today articles, driving classes offered by professional drivers provide skills beyond that offered by basic driver’s education classes required to get a driver’s license. Courses offer everything from advanced driving skills to managing peer-pressure when driving to parking necessities. In return, the students gain confidence when driving and the parents are comfortable their teenage drivers have gained a safety edge.

However, some teens are in no rush to begin driving and are waiting until it becomes a necessity to get their licenses. While some delay driving after tragedy strikes a friend or family member, others say teens’ social lives have changed with the advent of social media.

“For younger consumers, the smartphone may be the shiny new cars from previous generations,” said Thilo Koslowski, automotive analyst at Gartner research firm.

Citing the fact that teens can entertain themselves through Facebook, Twitter and other web-based forms of entertainment, and the economic downturn, Koslowki and other researchers note that teens are not going out as much. When they do, however, they rely on others to drive them when needed.

For some, the statistics facing teen drivers are unnerving. Some of the facts noted by the USA Today include:

  • Car accidents are the number-one killer of teens in the United States.
  • Young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 account for 30 percent, or $19 billion, in costs associated with automobile accidents among males, and 28 percent or $7 billion among females.
  • Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many car crashes as other age groups.
  • The majority of teen accidents are caused by inexperience, distractions – texting or talking on a cellphone – and driving while intoxicated.

The special report also notes that every day, an average of 11 teenagers die in car crashes in the United States. Allstate Insurance, which is sponsoring the “Save11” campaign, is partly sponsoring the USA Today teen driving section to encourage Congress to pass the STANDUP Act.

According to the Save11 Facebook page, the STANDUP Act, or Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act, is a national law currently awaiting approval from Congress. It would require states to pass and enforce minimum standards for Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) laws.

According to the USA Today, all 50 states have some form of GDL law, although the regulations and requirements vary. Florida’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program restricts 16-year-olds to driving between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and is riding in the front seat, or the teen is driving to or from work. Seventeen-year-old drivers can drive between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front passenger seat, or the teen is driving to or from work.

Our Treasure Coast car accident lawyers encourage parents to support their teens in their driving efforts and to lead by example. Our young drivers need to be made aware of the dangers of driving until they gain the experience and confidence to drive safely. As always, please buckle up, avoid distractions and do not drink and drive.

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, Fort Pierce, Jupiter, Stuart, Okeechobee, Vero Beach, Palm Beach, and across the state of Florida. For more information, call (800) 299-8878 or use the firm’s online contact form.