Putting the Brakes on Teen Drivers

Recently I wrote about elderly drivers and the trials and tribulations surrounding the difficult-but-necessary “it’s time to take the keys” conversation. Ironically, just a few days after I wrote the article, I encountered a textbook case going 25 mph in the left lane of a 45-mph-zoned, 3-lane road.
Understandably, it might be difficult for us to empathize with being too old to drive since by the time we get to that point ourselves, we won’t realize it; however, not one of you can truthfully and honestly say that at one time or another, you were not too young to drive. Personally, I didn’t get my license until a few days before I turned 17 while living in Chicago as a high-schooler. I lived with my family 300 yards from the school, and since my life pretty much revolved around school and its activities, I didn’t really have much need to drive even after I did have my license. Regardless, I can still think of several times in high school where I did something stupid or careless while driving the family station wagon we affectionately nick-named “Woody.”
The consequences of ignoring this issue are dire. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens both in Florida and across the entire United States with 306 teens dying in crashes in 2007. Statistically, one out of five licensed 16-year-olds in Florida will be involved in an accident in their first year of driving. This high rate can be attributed to general inexperience and immaturity not only emotionally but physically as well. It is scientifically documented that the human brain continues to develop well into an individual’s 20s, so teens many not even have the physiological capacity to appreciate all the risks of driving.
Parents, you may not realize it, but you are a role model for your children when it comes to driving. As hard as it may be to believe, more than the ridiculously-unrealistic stunts our kids see in the latest Hollywood blockbuster and then be tempted to recreate, children and circuit government teens learn most of their driving habits from their parents day-to-day driving. Kids need not be of driving age to begin to notice driving behaviors. Parents must instill a healthy fear in their children of the inherent dangers of piloting a two-ton missile down the road.
As a role model and a driving coach for your teen, you have a responsibility to know the stages of Florida’s Graduated Licensing laws and the restrictions that come with it. Talk with your teen. Ask where they are going and what time they will be home. If they aren’t driving, ask who is driving and whether that person is qualified to be driving around his peers. Set reasonable restrictions on driving. Remind them that driving is a privilege and not a right. Don’t be afraid to be a parent and impose punishment when your teen breaks your rules. Have an open line of communication with your teens’ friends’ parents so that you can share your mutual struggles. Finally, consider the safety of the vehicle you allow your teen to drive.
At Tripp Law Firm, we consider this an extremely relevant and important issue. I hope you will consider this article so that you might protect your family and specifically your teen as he begins or continues a rewarding life of freedom and responsibility behind the wheel.
DISCLAIMER – Nothing in this informational public service article should be construed as giving legal advice and should not be acted law internship wellington upon without first consulting an attorney. Also, this article should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship.

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