Florida bill would make teens wait extra year to drive

| Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Citing a statistic that thousands of Florida 16-year-olds are killed or injured in vehicle crashes annually, a state lawmaker is calling for increasing the state’s driving age from 16 to 17.

Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, says the extra year would reduce traffic deaths because teens need it for their brains to mature.

Nationwide, 16-year-old drivers have the highest crash risk. It is double the rate of 18- to 19-year-old drivers, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

“It’s common sense and I think maybe it’s time,” Slosberg told the newspaper.

The bill would change the earliest age to get a learner’s permit from 15 to 16 years. That would delay by one year the required age to qualify for a driver’s license.

Florida law already limits when a 16- or 17-year-old can be behind the wheel.

Sixteen-year-olds cannot be on the road between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless accompanied by someone 21 years or older or driving to work. And 17-year-olds are prohibited from driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Slosberg also wants to limit the number of teens who can ride along with a teen driver.

A recent AAA study found that crashes caused by 15- to 17-year-old drivers between 1995 and 2004 killed nearly 31,000 people nationwide, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Teen drivers accounted for 11,100 of those casualties while 9,900 were the passengers of young drivers.

According to a study by the National Safety Council, having just one passenger can boost the crash risk by 50 percent for 16- and 17-year-olds. With three or more passengers, the crash risk is four times greater than driving solo.

HB975 is in the House Transportation Committee.

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