A bill proposed by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) would make it easier for
teens in the Florida foster care system to engage in a rite of passage
experienced by billions of Florida teenagers: obtaining a driver's license.
SB 744, called "Keys to Independence", would remove some of the
barriers that the state's foster children face in getting their learner's
permit and driver's license. Detert says that by increasing their
access to obtaining driving privileges, lawmakers can play a role in helping
to guarantee a successful adulthood for these children.
Bill Aimed at Foster Kids Ages 15-17
As of January, there were 1,400 foster children aged 15 to 17 directly
under the state's care. According to
Ocala.com, only 9 percent had a learner's permit and 3 percent had a driver's license.
Getting your driver's license as a teen is part of taking on responsibilities
to prepare for adulthood. Having a license means you are more likely to
live independently and get a job once you graduate high school. Without
this, many foster kids are struggling when they age out of the foster
A former foster child, now 23, testified before the Senate Transportation
Committee that SB 744 could have changed his life had it been in place
when he was a teen. Now an advocate for the Florida Youth Shrine Group,
Thomas Fair said group home life and frequent school transfers prevented
him from enrolling in a driver's safety course and ultimately left
him without a license until he was 18.
As an 18-year-old driving for the first time, with no safety courses or
experience under his belt, Fair testified he was a danger on the roads.
Teen Drivers At Higher Risk of Fatal Accidents
Teens remain the most likely drivers to be involved in a fatal crash. And
driver's education courses are credited with reducing teen accident
rates. By giving foster children access to proper safety training and
license obtainment, the bill could help keep Florida roads safe and save lives.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 3,000 teens are killed every year in
car crashes. That's eight teenagers each and every day. Most importantly, these
accidents are preventable.
Florida laws are crafted to reduce the dangers of teen driving, but they
only work when teens have access to them in the first place.
New Driver Requirements
The Florida's "learner's license" or learner's permit
is designed to give teens a graduated driving experience, allowing them
to develop their driving skills while operating under stricter limitations
than a regular driver's license.
At the age of 15, a teen may obtain a learner's permit after passing
a written, hearing, and vision test. A learner's permit doesn't
provide open access to the roads. Permit holders can only driver during
daylight hours during the first three months and only until 10 p.m. after.
In addition, a licensed driver who is at least 21 mustalways accompany them.
Following one year of driving without any traffic convictions, a permit
holder can apply for an intermediate operator's license. Though this
license also has restrictions, it is the next step towards total driving
Without access to the process of graduated licensing in place, Florida's
foster children are left to obtain a license when they leave the system,
often without any driving experience at all. The laws of teen licensing
in the state of Florida are crafted to keep our roads safe, but have thus
far allowed foster children to fall through the cracks.