Driving is the most dangerous activity engaged in by teenagers. In the past decade, more than 60,000 American teens have been killed in traffic crashes.
Experts agree that a key factor is inexperience. Teenagers simply haven't had enough time behind the wheel to develop safe driving habits.
Rachel Burke of Panama City Beach installed a monitoring device, CarChip Pro, in her daughter's car in an effort to learn how she performed on the road. "It would not stop beeping every time I would go too fast or stop too fast," said Abigaile.
That's by design. CarChip Pro monitors speed, acceleration and braking and stores the data on a module that fits in the car's diagnostic port. After a week in which Abigaile drove more than 400 miles, including a road trip to Alabama, it was time to check the results using software included with the device.
The chip recorded a maximum speed of 71 miles per hour. "I guess that's not too bad since the speed limit was 65," said Rachel.
Abigaile scored well on getting up to speed. "No hard accelerations so you're not gunning the car," said her mother.
But the 16 year old didn't do so well on braking. "Twenty hard brakes.. that's ridiculous," Rachel reported.
Meanwhile, Joseph Gorton passed his driving test and, at age 18, finally got his license. The course he took at My Florida Training Center paid off, but instructor Suzy Hernandez said his education isn't complete. "Just passing a road test doesn't make a good or safe driver," she said. Hernandez said safe driving comes with experience under real conditions.
In the meantime, here are some tips for safe driving:
Use your cell phone or adjust the stereo. It takes your eyes off the road and slows reaction time.
Drink or do drugs. You could lose your license or your life.
Speed, unless you can afford tickets, higher insurance premiums or medical bills.
Run red lights or stop signs.
Pay attention. Keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Limit in car distractions. Don't let noise and movement draw attention away from traffic and road conditions.
Fasten seat belts.
Use turn signals.
After reviewing the CarChip Pro's data, Rachel Burke said her daughter Abilgaile's driving was better than expected, but the teenager won't be getting rid of the device for a while. They will talk about that when Abigaile learns to take it easy on the brakes.
Several insurance companies offer their own electronic monitoring devices and good performance behind the wheel can sometimes lead to lower rates. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Florida Highway Patrol offer a wealth of statistics and other useful information on teen driving safety.
The bottom line: there's no substitute for experience. Time and miles are a teenager's road map to safety.