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Local News

Simple Steps Make Teenage Drivers (& Everyone Else) Safer

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Photo via Flickr// State Farm
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We are now in the “100 Deadliest Days” on the highways, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when crash fatalities historically climb. AAA’s focus in that period is on drivers between 15-19 years of age.

According to a 2013 study by the auto club’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, roughly 75% of the 372,000 injuries and 2,900 fatalities in auto accidents in which a teenager was driving, were people other than the driver.

Matt Nasworthy at AAA South in Tampa says crash rates among those 15-19 are higher than any other age group, and the impacts of those accidents go well beyond whoever’s driving.  Nasworthy says parents need to have a talk with their teens about their driving habits.

The should discuss, “About how much they’re on their cellphone, how much they’re taking their friends out and driving around and having conversations,” said Nasworthy. “We found that cellphones and passengers are the top two distractions for teens. If they can limit those, that’s going to have a dramatic impact on how safe they are behind the wheel.”

Lt. Steve Preston with the Florida Highway Patrol says limits should include starting out slowly and making sure they get as much experience as possible while they have their learner’s permit at age 15. From 16 to 18, they can acquire a “Graduated Driver License.”

“They can drive between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. And then their driving is restricted after 11 p.m. unless they have a licensed 21-year-old in the vehicle in them, or if they’re going to and from work,” Preston said. “At 17 years of age they extend that to one a.m. Once they reach 18 years of age, no restrictions.”

Preston also recommends that, if their school offers it, teenagers take a drivers’ education course to get the basic instruction on safe driving.

Just like the licenses, any traffic violations are graduated. If those holding learner’s licenses are convicted of a moving violation, they must wait either a year before getting a regular driver’s license, or until they turn 18.

AAA’s Matt Nasworthy says everyone on the road, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, need to be mindful when sharing it with teen drivers. And for them, safe driving begins with not being distracted while behind the wheel.

“Put the phone down; limit the number of passengers they’re driving around with,” Nasworthy said. “Definitely limit those conversations when they’re driving. Just basically, to keep their mind on the basic task of driving.”

Parents can also establish other rules of the road for their teen drivers: working on attitude and practical experience, getting familiar with restrictions, and setting even tougher rules in areas such as night driving, which requires additional skills.

Tools to prepare for the 100 Deadliest Days can be found at www.TeenDriving.AAA.com