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Published On: Thu, Jun 18th, 2015

Florida’s Driver Education: Is it Too Much?

Safety and smart decision-making depend on a new driver’s ability to navigate the roads in a responsible way, but that’s only half of the battle. In 2012 along, 1,875 teens ages 15-20 died in motor crashes across the nation, according to the National Highway and Safety Administration.

In Florida, lawmakers contend that the abilities of new drivers also hinge on the quality of driver education that teens receive. In 1996, Florida became the first U.S. state to enact a Graduate Driver’s License Program (GDL) to obtain a license to drive, as a response to the growing number of teen fatalities. The Florida GDL program requires teens to pass two licensing stages before obtaining an adult license. Studies show that this program decreases the number of fatalities. However, the severity of the requirements is considered controversial by some.

Learner’s License Requirements

First, teens must obtain a learner’s license, which has the following requirements:

  1. Must be 15 years old
  2. Provide a Social Security number
  3. Offer evidence of completion of a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education Course or a driver’s license from another jurisdiction
  4. Have a guardian sign a parental consent form
  5. Pass the written and vision test

The written test can be challenging, so it’s recommended to thoroughly review the study materials and take a few permit practice tests online before taking the formal exam. Under this license, teen drivers cannot drive alone and are restricted from driving at night.

Operational License Requirements

Next, teens can apply for an operational license if they meet the following requirements:

  1. Must be 16-17 years old
  2. Have a learner’s license for at least 12 months without any traffic convictions
  3. Show evidence of parent or guardian certification that the driver has demonstrated at least 50 hours of experience behind the wheel, including 10 hours of driving at night
  4. Completion of the road requirements of the driver’s license exam
Sample Florida Driver's License photo/ http://taxcol.martin.fl.us

Sample Florida Driver’s License photo/ http://taxcol.martin.fl.us

Full License

After the operational license, a driver can obtain a full license as long as he or she is at least 18 years old. If you had an operational license prior, then no new testing is required. If you are an 18-year-old and applying for a license for the first time, you must present evidence that you completed a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course.

Are These Laws Too Stringent?

Some might argue that these are unnecessary hoops to obtain a license, but statistics show that Florida witnessed a nine percent decrease in teen fatalities as a result of this program. Many argue that this is enough of a downward trend to keep the GDL restrictions in place.

Florida is a trailblazer because their licensing procedure is what started the trend for others to adopt the GDL model. Now all 50 states have adopted these requirements before teens can obtain their full license. This has resulted in the decrease of fatalities not only in Florida, but also across the country. It is hard to argue that the laws are more stringent since they are saving lives. The data also backs this claim: 71 percent fewer teen deaths have occurred compared to 1971. With a statistic like that, it is hard to deny the power of the GDL and any potential controversy surrounding the requirements of the law.

Guest Author: Keith Sullivan

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- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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