Florida’s Teen Driver Challenge Hopes to Save Lives Through Improved Driving Skills

The Florida Sheriff’s Association hopes that the Florida Teen Driver Challenge can change a sad statistic: the number of Florida teens killed annually in car accidents. Started in 2006 by Florida sheriffs concerned about the startlingly high numbers of teens killed every year behind the wheel, the Florida Teen Driver Challenge received a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to develop a 12 hour classroom and hands-on driving curriculum available to teens between 15- and 19-years-old.

Over two days, instructors who are Florida Department of Law Enforcement driving experts lead groups of about five teens per instructor in classroom education. Subjects covered range from Florida driving laws including distracted driving or texting while driving, to vehicle dynamics in car accidents to aggressive driving behaviors.

Students also participate in eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction and a student vehicle inspection for safety issues. Students practice braking, cornering, off-road recovery, techniques to avoid car accidents and other driving skills during the course of the program. Each successful student receives a certification that they can then present to their insurer for a discount, at the insurer’s option, on auto insurance premiums.

Law enforcement officers are tracking the driving histories of teen participants who complete the Florida Teen Driver Challenge. The data will be used to determine the program’s success by comparing the participants’ driving histories with non-participant teens. The program is measured on three goals:

  • Reducing the number of teen car accidents
  • Reducing the number of fatal teen car accidents
  • Reducing the number of DUI and aggressive driving tickets issued to teen participants

According to statistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle accidents are the number one killer of teens; one in four teen drivers killed in car accidents in 2006 was legally intoxicated. The Florida Teen Driver Challenge aims to break the link between alcohol and teen drivers and improve teen driving skills overall. While the Florida Teen Driver Challenge is still in its infancy, the program’s goal of reducing teen car accidents and teen fatalities is laudable, and will hopefully prove successful, saving the lives of Florida teens in the future.