Working with those injured in a Panama City car accident means being constantly reminded that newspaper reports aren't just lines of writing, but instead represent real lives impacted by unthinkable tragedies. While every fatal crash is heart-breaking, stories of accidents that claim young lives can be particularly upsetting.
The News Herald carried the story of a local collision that claimed the lives of three teenagers from Sneads. On Thursday afternoon, 15-year-old Ted Michael Jeter was driving in Grand Ridge with friends, Kristian Bo McClamma and Christopher Brandon Hall, both 16. According to The Florida Highway Patrol ("FHP"), the teens were heading east on Sandy Ridge Church Road in a 1999 Buick. At about three in the afternoon, the car drifted off towards the right side of the road. Jeter attempted to correct the vehicle but over-steered. The car skidded off the road and hit an oak tree. Authorities pronounced both Jeter and McClamma dead at the scene and Hobbs passed away at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. The FHP noted that all three teens were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.
According to the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC"), motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of deaths among teens in our country. Crashes account for more than 1 in 3 teen deaths, claiming 8 lives in the 16- to 19-year-old age category for each day in 2009 and sending 350,000 teens to emergency rooms that year. Looking at the numbers in terms of miles driven, teens are 4 times more likely to crash than older drivers. The following groups are at especially high risk:
There are many factors that combine to heighten the risk of crashes among teen drivers. Younger drivers are often more likely to speed and tend to follow more closely than older operators. Drinking is another strong risk factor leading to teen fatalities. While seatbelt use has definitely improved over the years, teens are still the group most likely to forgo safety belts. Teens also tend to underestimate risk, and they are not as prepared to respond to hazards as more experienced drivers.
Some studies suggest graduated licensing, programs that slowly increase driving privileges, is effective in alleviating the risk of teen crash fatalities. The CDC says the programs reduce the risk of fatal and injury-causing accidents by 38 to 40%. In Florida, 16- and 17-year-olds must hold a learner's permit for at least a year without any traffic convictions to be eligible for an intermediate licensing. 16-year-olds can only drive from 6 A.M. till 11 P.M. unless they are accompanied by a front-seat passenger who is a licensed driver over age 21, or travelling to and from a job. 17-year-olds may drive between 5 A.M. and 1 A.M. with the same exceptions. There is a zero tolerance policy prohibiting teens from drinking and driving.
While the recent Grand Ridge crash is still being examined, it is clear that young drivers are at an increased risk for collisions. We urge parents and teens to talk about the importance of safe driving. It can and does save lives.
As always, our Panama City personal injury lawyer is here to help you after an accident. If you are injured or lose someone you love in a local car accident caused by someone else, call our office for a free consultation.