Distractions to blame in recent teen crashes?

A look at 2 recent high-profile traffic crashes in Jacksonville area

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One dead, two severely wounded and one in jail -- that's what the result has been for two recent high-profile traffic crashes in the Jacksonville area. And the victims are all teens.

The issue of teenagers behind the wheel is coming up once again after the two cases in St. Johns and Clay counties.

Channel 4 has been looking into the issue of teens behind the wheel and found that there are all sorts of distractions in cars that keep drivers' eyes off the road.

This weekend, Austin Clark Norman was killed and his brother was injured in a Clay County crash when they struck a tree. The teens' grandmother, Marsha Norman, said Austin's brother could have easily been killed too.

"They'll do surgery. He has a broken femur and broken ankle," Norman said. "They'll do surgery on his leg this morning and they may have to wait on his ankle because of the swelling. He's got a cracked sternum."

Just two days prior to the Norman brothers' accident, another teenage driver in St. Johns County was charged for a crash from last year where Bartram Trail High School student Aubrey Thompson was critically injured.

RELATED: Teen killed, brother injured in Clay County crash |
Teen arrested in crash that injured teammate

Channel 4 met with Sgt. Dylan Bryan of the Florida Highway Patrol, who teaches courses to teenagers about driving dangers. Bryan said it goes beyond texting and that it can be pervasive among young drivers.

"Primarily what we see are a lot of distractions, whether it's passengers in vehicles, texting, cellphone, eating, drinking, radio, listening to music," Bryan said.

Bryan said the FHP applauds the state Legislature for criminalizing texting while driving last year, even though it's only a secondary offense, meaning you have to be pulled over for something else to be ticketed for it.

Bryan said when he pulls up on a teenage crash he notices a different response than with a person who's been driving for closer to 20 years.

"That goes with experience," Bryan said. "The older drivers tend to recognize what could've been a hazardous situation. With the younger drivers, we don't have that light bulb effect with how severe that could've been."

Investigators said in the Clay County crash neither teen was wearing a seat belt, something investigators said they believe could have saved a life.

About the Author: