Is your teen driver ready to get behind the wheel? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Is your teen driver ready to get behind the wheel?

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

How do you know if your child is ready to get behind the wheel of a car?

Driving instructors WTOC spoke to say parents need to not only know their children's limitations, but also be familiar with Georgia law.

Since 2007, driving instructor Richard Ferrara tells WTOC he feels Georgia has done all the right things making young drivers earn their licenses, taking Joshua's Law classes and completing 40 hours of behind the wheel experience. They say the problem is teens and their parents don't always take it serious enough.

"The requirement for 40 hours of driving, some people don't take it serious. Some people do. Public schools don't have driver education so some go through the online class. There is not as much practical experience behind the wheel of a car. We have to encourage parents to get in the car with them. Get them that experience," Ferrara told WTOC.

Ferrara teaches drivers education at 1 Stop Driving and DUI in Pooler. He heard about the accident involving the teen driver and the two young girls outside Beach High School, and being a father himself, says sometimes an online course is just not enough.

Real life driving experience is crucial, Ferrara says, and eliminating bad habits early is also key.

In recent studies, 68 out of 100 16-year-olds are involved in a traffic accident during their first year driving. 85% of teen drivers use cell phones while driving. 65% of teens admit to text messaging while driving.

According to ABC Driving School, Georgia loses a teen driver nearly every day to traffic-related deaths. Ferrara says knowing your child and if they are ready to share the road with others is a huge responsibility.

"I've got five. I know I got a good feeling before I put mine behind the wheel so not only can they handle the car but have the maturity level to know this is dangerous," he said. "Statistically, driving is the most dangerous thing any of us ever do. Maturity level is very important."

As parents, we worry about putting our teens behind the wheel. A new study from the Georgia Highway Safety Department shows driver's education classes for our young drivers is making a huge difference in saving lives. 

Joshua's Law was passed in 2007, aimed at making sure young people are prepared to handle the responsibility of driving. 

Getting a driver's license is now a three tier process. You can get your learner's permit at 15, but still have to drive with someone who is 21 or older. 16 to 18 year olds have to take a 30 hour Joshua's Law class and 40 hours behind the wheel experience.

Once you get the license, there are restrictions. The problem is, Ferrara says parents aren't always up to speed on the laws.

"A lot of parents don't know. They think a 16 year old they can drive whenever they want. They can't drive after midnight, can't have certain people in the car. Keep up with the law. Keep up with what is going on," he said.

The most recent Georgia Highway Safety Critical Accident Report backs him up. Since 2005,  which saw 229 fatal crashes involving teens 15 to 19 years old, the number dropped every year and hit an all-time low in 2009  with 113.

Driver involved fatal crashes: 317 in 2005 down to 145 in 2009.

However, Chatham County remains in the top six for counties with most teen driver involved crashes.

"The more smart phones on the road, the more kids on Facebook, the more distracted driving goes up. We are a distracted society as it is. The more things you give them to keep their mind off what they are supposed to be doing," Ferrara said.

Copyright 2012 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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