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Behind The Wheel Driving Instruction & Traffic School

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Three Teen Drivers in Fatal Crashes Violated Driving Restrictions

By Rachel Hatzipanagos, Sun Sentinel
November 24, 2009

Three South Florida teen drivers died this month after failing to follow laws designed to protect them and their two young passengers.

Each novice motorist was supposed to have had a licensed adult in the car with him. None did.

Parents and teens agree that many kids either don't know or don't follow the laws. For its part, law enforcement says mom and dad need to show more responsibility.

The relative of one recent victim agrees.

"Parents need to follow the laws," said Margaret Detwiler, the aunt of Anthony Almonte, 16.

Her nephew was in a car, driven by another 16-year-old, that plunged into a Coral Springs canal, killing Almonte, the driver and another boy.

"Otherwise, this is what happens," Detwiler said.

In Broward County, 46 teenage drivers died in accidents from 2004 to 2008. During the same period, 48 teens were killed in Palm Beach County crashes, authorities said.

In 1996, Florida adopted tougher restrictions limiting hours beginner motorists can drive and with whom. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the state eventually recorded a 9 percent reduction in crashes for drivers between 16 and 17 years old.

But some still die.

The driver in the Coral Springs crash was Sean Maxey, an avid basketball player. The other motorists who died in crashes were Marquis Lumsdon, 17, of Pompano Beach, who wanted to join the Navy; and Matthew Kornya, 15, of Wellington , an accomplished swimmer.

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According to Florida driving rules, each boy should have had a licensed driver at least 21 years old in the passenger seat.

"There are laws on the books designed to make driving safer, and it doesn't look like those laws are being followed," said Jim Leljedal, a spokesman with the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, where the victims of the Coral Springs crash went to school, did some soul-searching, said student Evynn Stengel, 15.

"I think before the accident happened, I would've said these laws were stupid and pointless, but now they all make sense," said Stengel, who obtained her learner's permit in August.

Some teens at Wellington High School rethought whether they are ready to drive, said Bianca Vrionis, 15, who had a class with Kornya.

"I was supposed to be getting my learner's permit…but after what happened, I don't feel ready for it," Vrionis said.

While much of the focus is on the teens, parents have a significant role to play, authorities say.

"The parents know what their child's driver's license status is, and usually, it's the parent's car," said Sgt. John Churchill of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

Although officers ticket teens for violating permit restrictions, authorities said that typically happens while motorists are stopped for another infraction. The number of infractions given out were not readily available.

"Obviously, it's difficult to tell someone's age while they are driving because of tinted windows and things like that," said Coral Springs police spokesman Joe McHugh.

Usually, when teen drivers get pulled over, they say they didn't know the rules, said Paula Sylvester, an instructor with Avanti Auto Driving School in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

"We've heard it all," Sylvester said. "I've had a parent call me and say that they let their kids drive alone to school with just a learner's permit…It completely blows me away."

Nicole Astaphan, of Parkland, whose 15-year-old daughter is a student at Stoneman Douglas, said she only knew of the restrictions after reading them on a magnet the girl brought home.

"Realistically, that's the only way I know," Astaphan said. "I guess they expect you as a parent to keep track of it."

On Saturday about mid-morning, Lumsdon was driving alone when his car jumped a curb and collided with another car. He had a learner's permit.

The week before, Maxey was out late with friends. He had just earned a driver's license in October, but the law said he still needed to have an adult in the car at that hour. After a minor fender-bender, Maxey put the car in reverse and it plunged into a canal.

Kornya, who had a learner's permit, was driving his father's car with a 16-year-old passenger early on the morning of Nov. 7. He wasn't wearing a seat belt, but the passenger was. The car rolled over. The passenger survived.

An attempt to reach the Lumsdon family on Tuesday were not successful. Maxey's father declined to coment.

Reached at home, the mother of Matthew Kornya, Deborah Kornya said she did not want to comment on whether her son knew of learner's permit restrictions before the accident.

"The only thing I want to say is to remind parents to teach their kids to make wise decisions," Kornya said. "They need to always wear their seat belts."

With a learner's license, you may:

Only drive during daylight hours during the first three months and until 10 p.m. thereafter, always with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old occupying the front passenger seat.

With a driver's license you may:

16 years old: Only drive between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front passenger seat, or you are traveling to or from work.

17 years old: Only drive between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front passenger seat, or you are traveling to or from work.

Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Staff writers Erika Pesantes and Juan Ortega and staff researchers Barbara Hijek, John Maines, and Dana Williams contributed to this report.

Rachel Hatzipanagos can be reached at rhatzipanagos@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4543.

When You're 15, Learning to Drive Can Be Problematic

By Jana Krumholtz
Dreyfoos School of the Arts

Avanti Thank You For a GREAT Job!You've just turned 15 and you've received the greatest birthday present imaginable: your driver's permit. Freedom bells ring in your head, you feel mature, responsible, alive. There is just one problem - you don't know a thing about driving.
 
One reason could be the lack of driver's education courses in high school. they are no longer offered in many schools in Palm Beach County because of the extra expense and liability risks.

So where do you turn for lessons on how to drive? Good old mom and dad. But they refuse to enter a moving vehicle with you because the thought alone traumatizes them.

The next logical stop is a driving school, such as the Avanti Auto Driving School in Boca Raton.
 
"We try to familiarize new drivers with the basics: the brake, the gas, how to scan the road" Avanti driving teacher Paula Sylvester said.

"I used Avanti driving school because my parents wanted me to learn the right way the first time around," said Allison Megano, a junior at Atlantic High School. "In the beginning, I felt a little uncomfortable because I was afraid that if I made a mistake, the teacher would yell - which - never happened, and after awhile, I became much more confident when driving."

During Avanti lessons, the teachers go through the exact maneuvers you will be asked to do during your license test and more.

"These include knowledge of the content of the vehicle, safety check, following instructions, right and left turn, quick stop, parking, brake, three-point turn, reversing the car." Sylvester said.

Other exercises reviewed are shifting gears, approaching crossing, observing the right-of-way, obeying stop signs and traffic signals, passing, staying in proper lanes, following at a safe distance and maintaining proper posture.

Simple? Some might think so.

"In the 1980's, they eliminated the parallel parking from the drivers test, but now you see more of that type of parking, so they might bring it back, "Sylvester said.

Fortunately for our generation unlike our parents, we don't have to deal with parallel parking ... yet.

Published October 1, 2004 - Sun-Sentinel Next Generation section.

 

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Avanti Auto Driving School
1200 N. Federal Hwy., 200
Boca Raton, FL 33432
PB: (561) 338-6400
Broward: (954) 783-8074