Inexperience Can Kill: One Teen Dead, Others Injured In Tampa Smashup

The summer of 2011 was marked by a tragic car accident in Tampa. At a Columbus Drive intersection close to Interstate Four, a Toyota Solara carrying five young passengers was struck broadside by a Mazda CX-9 SUV.

Details of the Columbus Drive Wreck

Eighteen-year-old Alicia Shaheed was killed; three other passengers in the Toyota, aged 17 to 20, were rushed to Tampa General Hospital with serious injuries. The Toyota’s driver, 20-year-old Chaz Yount, was unharmed. However, as Yount was driving with a learner’s permit, Florida law required him to have a licensed driver over the age of 21 in the front passenger seat – at the time of the accident, the front passenger was 17 years old.

The Mazda’s driver was 19-year-old Randolph De Sylvia. De Sylvia did not have a driver’s license, and earlier in the summer faced misdemeanor charges for operating a motor vehicle without a valid license. De Sylvia only suffered minor injuries in the crash.

Drivers under 21, Especially Those Driving Illegally, Present Unique Roadway Threat

In the recent Florida accident, both drivers were young, relatively inexperienced and operating their vehicles in violation of the law. Absent this cocktail of accident risk factors, it is likely the crash could have been avoided.

Although licensing and passenger restriction requirements may sometimes seem like bureaucratic nitpicking, in reality there are gravely serious justifications for these vehicle operation laws. Every year, more than 8,000 drivers involved in fatal crashes – almost one out of every seven drivers in fatal accidents – are not licensed or have an invalid license. And, even validly-licensed drivers under the age of 21 are three times more likely to crash than their older counterparts.

Approximately two out of three serious crashes involving teenage drivers are due to critical errors associated with inexperience. Lack of attentiveness to potential hazards, driving too fast and being distracted are the top three critical errors, and they alone are responsible for almost half of teen driver wrecks. Having a mature, experienced driver in the passenger seat can mean advanced warning of these threats and a lower chance of passenger-generated distraction.

According to CDC statistics, young people ages 15-24 represent just 14 percent of the U.S. population, but account for nearly a third of the total costs associated with motor vehicle injuries. There is no doubt that inexperience on the road kills.