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Teen driving deaths rise nationally, decline in Florida

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While deaths among teen drivers are on the rise nationally, Florida’s fatalities have substantially declined.

According to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the nationwide total number of deaths among teen drivers jumped 19 percent during the first half of 2012.

In the first six months of 2012, there were 240 total 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths nationally, up from 202 in the first six months of 2011.

The number of deaths in Florida decreased from 14 to five.

While Florida’s teen driving deaths were among the highest in the country in 2011, the state has several programs designed to keep teens safe on the roads.

Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Art Forgey explained that Florida’s Graduated Driver Licensing program puts limitations on teen drivers.

Florida has a learner license for 15-year-olds and an intermediate license for 16- and 17-year-olds. Each license has a designated curfew and set of requirements.

“It allows them to get a little experience before fully fledged cutting them loose,” he said.

The county sheriff has also created the Alachua County’s Teen Driver Challenge to help teens become better defensive drivers.

The program is 12 hours long and free of charge. It is supervised by certified driving instructors from the sheriff’s office.

“We recognize that, these being new drivers, they are more at risk than people with more experience,” Forgey said. “We would like to give them that experience.”

Teens in the program get hands-on experience behind the wheel in addition to classroom work.

“We would love to see every teen go through it,” Forgey said.

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