State lawmakers to file bill to limit teen passengers riding with teen drivers

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - What parent doesn't get nervous handing over the car keys to their teen driver?

Traffic safety officials say automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for teens 15 to 19 years old.

That's why some state lawmakers are looking to restrict how many passengers can be in the car with a newly- licensed driver.

State Senator Thad Altman is filing a bill for the 2014 legislative session that would limit teen passengers to no more than 4 under the age of 18 for teen drivers ages 16 and 17.

The Florida Department of Highway safety and Motor Vehicles says the risk of a teen accident rises with other teens in the car.

State Rep. Irv Slosberg says a bill like this could be life-saving. He lost his daughter in a car accident nearly 20 years ago.

Slosberg says too many kids were piled into the car. Five were killed when it crashed. "Unfortunately, kids think they're invincible," Slosberg said. "I just want to try to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else, what happened to me."

Slosberg says he plans on filing a similar bill as well.

Rep. Larry Lee, of Fort Pierce, also supports a passenger restriction bill for newly licensed drivers.

"It's a good step forward, however, it's a struggle," Slosberg said. Similar bills have been proposed before, but have failed to pass.

Some drivers wouldn't mind more limitations for passengers driven by teenagers. West Palm Beach resident Lela Kaleis says her daughter was in an accident when four other girls were in her car.

"All the girls together were talking about practice and having fun. I don't think my daughter was paying as close of attention as she should have," Kaleis said.

Driver Michael Schalk also knows teens can be easily distracted, "pointing out things 'oh look at this car, look at that' or they're changing the radio station," Schalk said.

Slosberg hopes next year a bill will pass to protect teens from deadly distractions.

The Florida Highway Patrol reports more than 16,000 crashes statewide involving teens just this year.

Florida is one of only three states that does not have a passenger restriction for newly licensed teen drivers.

 

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