Few Panama City auto accidents are as tragic as those that take the lives of our youngest drivers. Of course, it is well known that teen drivers face significant risks when behind the wheel – their inexperience and increased chance of being distracted are two of the most common factors in accidents. So many accidents hinge on mistakes made with little time to react. Risky behavior often goes unnoticed until it erupts into an accident.
For example, riding too closely to another car may not seem like a problem to a teen until the one occasion when the first car stops suddenly and there is no time to avoid a collision. Similarly, texting when behind the wheel doesn't seem so bad until that one instance when a car shifts into another lane while one's eyes are not on the road. Sadly, all it takes is that "one" mistake to end a life.
But what is the best way to hammer home those risks to young teens? Awareness campaigns are widespread. 99 out of 100 teens, for example, would admit that texting while behind the wheel is dangerous. But many still do it. Is there a more comprehensive approach to teaching better driving techniques to youngsters?
Some argue for new driver regulations, with temporary licenses, tighter curfews, limits on passengers, and similar steps that seek to minimize risky situations. Alternatively, some in our area are calling for a return to driver's education classes
A story earlier this month in the News Herald reported on some community members who are pushing for a reinstatement of a driver's education course in the Bay District school system. The whole effort was spurred by the recent deaths of three local teens. The fatal accidents struck within a two-month period. A Facebook page has been set up to draw attention to the effort, and more and more members are joining up.
Those leading the petitioning effort believe there is a difference between formal and informal education. One supporter – a police officer – explained that "some people can't navigate the curves or they panic. If they brake after the apex of the curve, it can make a car lose control. Things like that a young adult should learn in formal training. Once it's learned, it can become a habit." After all, instilling good habits is the ultimate goal, so teens drive better at all times.
According to the report, the programs were cut in the District in 2008 as a result of budget cuts. In addition, school officials noted that increased requirements from the state made it more and more difficult to fit in voluntary programs like driver's education programs. The Florida Highway Patrol notes that 7 teens have died in local accidents since 2008 – though there is no systematic effort analyzing whether that total is higher than when the program was in place. The District Superintendent reported that he has yet to see any studies connecting driver's education courses with less risky teen driving behavior.
No matter what the case, it is important for all drivers to act reasonably when behind the wheel. Our Panama City accident lawyers work with residents and families of victims in many different situations who are hurt (or killed) in these accidents.