The time has come. There’s no escaping it. Your teenager wants to start driving.
The thought of their children behind the wheel strikes fear in the heart of many a parent, though that fear often mixes with relief that your life as your son or daughter’s taxi service is finally coming to an end. Whatever emotions you feel about the prospect of your teen hitting the road, you want to ensure that they learn the rules and driving habits that will keep them and others safe.
Here is an overview of Florida’s teen driver laws, and some practical tips for new teen drivers (and their parents) as they take on the responsibilities of this exciting new phase of life.
Florida’s Graduated Driver License Laws
Florida has a three-tiered “graduated” licensing law for teen drivers, which is designed to keep them safe as they ease into the responsibilities of driving:
- At age 15, your child can obtain a Learner’s License, but only after submitting a notarized parental consent form and proof of identification and residence, passing a vision and hearing test, completing a mandatory Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course, and passing a 50-question multiple choice knowledge exam. With a Learner’s License, your teen must always be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older. For the first three months, the Learner’s License is only valid during daylight hours, and after that it is valid only until 10 p.m. Your teen cannot “graduate” from the Learner’s License until the earlier of twelve months or turning 18, and having completed at least 50 hours of supervised driving, including at least 10 hours of night driving.
- At age 16, your child can obtain a Florida Driver License, with restrictions. First, your teen must have completed the requirements for a Learner’s License above. In addition, your teen must have a clean driving record under the Learner’s License. A 16 year-old’s Driver License is not valid between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless driving to or from work, or accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older.
- At age 17, your child’s Florida Driver License is valid except between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless driving to or from work, or accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older.
- At age 18, your child’s Florida Driver License is unrestricted (provided the requirements of a Learner’s License above have been met).
Practice, Practice, Practice
Here is some practical advice for making your role as your teen’s driving “supervisor” as painless and constructive as possible for both of you.
- Begin by educating your teen about the car and how it works. You don’t have to be a mechanic. Just help your teen learn the basics: where turn signals are, the different headlight modes, adjusting mirrors and seat positions, what the letters and numbers on the shifter mean, and so on.
- Begin practice in large open spaces such as empty parking lots on clear days, then rainy days, then move on to quiet residential areas on clear days, then rainy days, and so on.
- When your teen is ready for a broader variety of roads and road conditions, take advantage of any and every opportunity for your teen to drive you around. This is “real world” driving, forcing your teen to confront different traffic scenarios, speeds, and decisions. And as an added bonus, it makes them the taxi driver for once!
- Model safe practices from the passenger seat. Maintain a calm voice, give positive reinforcement, and put your smartphone away.
- If all of this stresses you out too much or is causing family friction, send your teen to a reputable driving school instead. Or to put it another way, if you find yourself shouting at your teen from the passenger seat, that’s a sign you should turn over your duties to a professional.
Complete resources for new teen drivers and their parents can be found on this Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles web page.
Your Newly Licensed Teen
When your child successfully graduates from Learner’s License to Driver License, celebrate! It’s a huge achievement and a major rite of passage. Your new driver may feel ready for anything, but encourage your teen to focus on expanding his or her experience by gradually increasing driving time and carefully exploring new locations.
In the Event of an Accident
No one wants their teen to be in an accident, but it happens, especially to less experienced drivers. A responsible driver knows what steps to take in the event of one. Share these tips with your newly licensed teen on what to do if an accident occurs:
- Remain on the scene; do not leave the site of the accident.
- The health and safety of those involved is your first priority. Call 911 for immediate medical treatments if you or others were hurt.
- Pull your car to the side of the road, out of traffic, if it is safe and possible to do so.
- Call a parent to meet you at the scene.
- Exchange license and insurance information with the other driver. Avoid making any additional statements at that time.
- Once you are safe, contact a lawyer for guidance and expertise in resolving the matter, especially if anyone was injured. Do not accept a settlement offer from the other driver or an insurance company without first speaking to a lawyer.
The experienced attorneys at the Florida Law Group are dedicated to helping you navigate the ordeal of a teen in a traffic accident, and know how to make sure that you receive any compensation you deserve. Contact us at (813) 463-8880 or online for a free, confidential consultation and evaluation of your case.