JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - More than 9,000 teenage drivers were involved in car crashes in Northeast Florida in 2015, according to the most recent crash data released by the state of Florida.
The I-TEAM analyzed a year's worth of data and discovered more crashes with teenagers at the wheel occurred on certain days of the week, at specific hours and primarily involved two specific causes.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” explained Ed Radloff, who invited us to the Department of Motor Vehicle office on Kernan Boulevard where his 15-year-old daughter celebrated her birthday by receiving her learner’s permit.
“Maggie got into the car and my nerves shot up,” he said as they left with her driving.
Maggie Radloff said turning into parking lots and in front of other cars made her the most anxious. She told her father she felt like she was driving slower than all the other cars on the road.
“Don’t worry about slow. It’s not bad. Just be safe,” he reminded her.
Teen crashes more common on weekdays
The I-TEAM sorted through thousands of crash reports involving teen drivers and discovered more were involved in accidents in 2015 during the week than on weekends. More teens crashed on Friday than any other day of the week, followed by Thursday and then Wednesday.
Most of those wrecks happened after school between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. There were more teen crashes at 3 p.m. than any other hour of the day.
The I-TEAM also discovered most of the accidents occurred during the month of October, with September and then August as the months of the year with the second- and third-most frequent collisions involving teen drivers.
Causes of teen crashes
There are 20 different contributing factors listed on a traffic crash report describing a driver’s actions at the time of a collision.
We found the largest number of teen crashes were listed as operating a motor vehicle in a careless or negligent manner. According to spokespersons from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol, this kind of action can include a teen driver following too closely or being distracted.
There is a category on traffic crash reports that allows the responding officer to list if the driver was distracted. But we found that the overwhelming majority of the teenage drivers -- 6,817 of the 9,110 drivers involved -- were reported to be "not distracted." The most common type of distraction mentioned was simply an "inattentive" driver. Only 5 percent of the drivers were reported to be distracted by someone or something.
Keep in mind, unless a law enforcement officer witnessed the accident, it would be difficult to report the driver as distracted -- unless the driver told the officer he/she was distracted at the time.
The second-most common cause of accidents involving teens in 2015 was failure to yield.
Type of impact with teen drivers
The I-TEAM also discovered more teen drivers hit the car in front of them during a crash than any other kind of damage. This happened to 3,711 cars driven by teenagers in 2015.
The second-most common wreck is teens hitting another car at an angle; for example, T-boning another vehicle. There were 1,639 of those.
Accidents caused by backing up were among the lowest.
Roads where teens crashed
Duval County: According to our analysis of teenage drivers involved in car accidents in 2015, the greatest number of accidents in Duval County happened on I-295 and I-95, followed by Atlantic Boulevard, Beach Boulevard and San Jose Boulevard.
St. Johns County: The top roads for crashes involving teen drivers were all roads that stretch for miles throughout the county: U.S. 1, I-95 and A1A.
Clay County: Blanding Boulevard was by far the most common road for crashes involving teen drivers, with three times as many crashes as the next-most common road, U.S. 17. County Road 220 was third on the list for crashes involving teen drivers.
Nassau County: In Nassau County, County Road 200 saw the most crashes involving teen drivers, followed by U.S. 1 and U.S. 17.
Ed Radloff and his daughter take I-295 to get to her school. He intends to spend the next year teaching her to drive responsibly and defensively.
“Kids think they are invincible,” he said. “You’re driving a 2-ton vehicle and you’re driving 55-70 mph and kids think they can stop on a dime. It doesn't happen.”
Maggie is the youngest of Radloff's four children. He said each of his older children have been in accidents and said every call he got was gut-wrenching.
Radloff is also a personal injury attorney, so he knows all too well the kind of injuries drivers and passengers can sustain in accidents. Fortunately, none of his children’s accidents involved any serious injury to them or other drivers.
“Our son was in an accident and wasn't paying attention. He lost driving privileges,” said Radloff. “It made me get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to take him to swim practice, but I think it’s important that people realize driving is a privilege and you can lose that privilege.”
Maggie remembers that crash involving her older brother.
“My parents were so mad at him,” she said, which she remembers each day she gets behind the wheel.
Maggie said she is consciously aware of not allowing herself to get distracted while driving. Also, when she turns 16 and gets her license to legally drive on her own, her parents will not allow her to have anyone else in the car with her right away. That will cut down on the possibility of her getting distracted by a teenage passenger.
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