National Teen Driver Safety Week October 20-26


When you take the seat behind the wheel of a vehicle, you take on a great responsibility. Unfortunately, the significance of that responsibility can be taken for granted. Oftentimes, a driver allows his or her focus to be impaired by various distractions that confront us in today’s fast-paced and high tech world in which we live. They are distractions that can and DO turn deadly.

In no age group is that more apparent than for teenagers. Teens have the highest crash rate of any age group in our state. Over 22,000 teen drivers were involved in crashes last year in Florida. Forty-one of them were killed.

Texting while driving is one of biggest distractions on our roads, especially for young people. Eleven teenagers are killed each day in the U.S. as the result of texting while driving. Teens themselves report that texting is their number one driving distraction. A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive.

How much of a distraction can texting be to a driver? Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At a speed of 55 miles per hour, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

But cell phones and texting aren’t the only distractions for motorists. Whether it’s trying to tune in a radio station, or eating a quick lunch while driving, anything that takes your full attention off the road for even a second is a distraction that could cost you your life, and possibly the lives of others. Teens are particularly vulnerable to distracted driving crashes due to their lack of experience behind the wheel.

These statistics are alarming, but they aren’t just statistics—they are real people. We see the tragic results of teen crashes every day. It could be a relative, a neighbor, a child of a co-worker, or it could be your own child.

A student who becomes distracted in class can get a failing grade on a test or worse, fail an entire grade level. But being distracted behind the wheel can have deadly consequences for the driver, their passengers and others.

Thanks to the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott, Florida now has a law on the books that prohibits manual texting while driving. Law enforcement agencies across the state, including the Florida Highway Patrol, will enforce the law. The dangers of distracted driving, as well as other unsafe driving behaviors such as drunk driving, speeding and failing to wear a seat belt, are too great to ignore.

What can you do? Spread the word. Florida is highlighting the dangers of teens crashes with a Delete Teen Crashes Day on October 15. The week of October 20 – 26 is National Teen Driver Safety Week. Take this opportunity to talk to the teen drivers you meet to encourage them to put their phone down while driving and keep their eyes (and attention) on the road. Encourage them to speak up if they are a passenger in a car and the driver uses an electronic device while driving. And remind them to always wear their seat belt.

Parents should talk with their kids about responsible driving and always model good driving behavior while behind the wheel. In addition, there are a number of smartphone apps available for download that limit the functionality of a cellphone while driving or assist parents in monitoring their teens driving behavior. If everyone drives safely, we can Delete Teen Crashes forever.

For more information on Delete Teen Crashes or National Teen Driver Safety Week, contact Leslie Palmer at (850) 617-3102 (lesliepalmer@fldhsmv.gov) or Captain Nancy Rasmussen at (850) 617-2301 (nancyrasmussen@fldhsmv.gov ) at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

NHTSA has materials on teen driving safety at the Traffic Safety Marketing website.

Also, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm Insurance Companies initiated “Ride Like A Friend. Drive Like You Care” (RLAF) for Teen Driver Safety Week. It is a school-based initiative focused on the relationship between teen drivers and their teen passengers. Improving the safety of teen driving with peer passengers is at the heart of RLAF. The program aims to 1) build awareness about teen drivers’ motor vehicle crash (MVC) risks involving passengers in their car and 2) establish beliefs and behaviors among teen drivers and passengers that promote safe driving.