Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Archive for March, 2009

Shockingly, parents take teens to easier DMVs

Posted by lapearce on March 30, 2009

I was looking for something on the OC Register page the other day, and found this old article that I had commented on two months ago telling people which DMVs in Orange County have the easiest driver’s tests.

What really upset me was the mindset of the parents:

“The Foothill High School sophomore’s mom, Laurie Peterson, 47, said a family friend took her child to the DMV office in Norco out of concern that the test at the Santa Ana office would be too hard.

“Personally, I don’t care where he takes the test, he’s a good driver, but you know, they hear those rumors and they give the kids the heebie-jeebies.””

Another woman in the comments said that she took her kids out to the Banning DMV because, “I felt my kids didn’t need the added stress of their behind the wheel test (a weird stranger in their car) with all the wackos on the roads in OC. It was easy.”

Hey lady! Guess what! The day after your kids take the test, they will be driving with the wackos in OC. You didn’t protect them from ANYTHING.

I suppose my mindset is different from most due to my knowledge of the perils of teen driving, and of the complete inability of the DMV to realize the error of its ways. We need to convince the parents this is something serious, and we need to let teens know that failing isn’t exactly a bad thing. If you aren’t ready to drive, you aren’t ready to drive, and no DMV should change that. The fact that there are easier DMVs and harder DMVs also says there is issue with DMV oversight on these tests. Shouldn’t all DMVs be equal?

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Mock DUI crashes aim to influence teens

Posted by lapearce on March 24, 2009

Even though the drinking age in the US is 21, and the under aged drinking and driving laws tend to be incredibly strict, 2,000 teens die each year in alcohol related crashes nation-wide.

So, once again, it is a private organization, and not the DMV, trying to do something about it. MADD is doing drunk driving crash simulations in Orange and Villa Park high schools this week to demonstrate to teens what can happen when you mix alcohol with driving.

The simulations are powerful. People lying “dead” in pools of blood, fire fighters cutting people out of cars with Jaws of Life. The hope is that this fear factor will influence teens to not drink and drive.

While I respect and truly admire the DMV’s strong stance on under aged drunk driving, they could do more. Like many other driving laws, they work based on punishment for bad actions, instead of education of what not to do. They hope that the punishment will deter the crime, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way with many new drivers.

According to a 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens need to get this message. To quote: “The teen participants do not see anything wrong with underage drinking and very little wrong with driving after having consumed just a beer or two. Many believe they can tell when they are too drunk to drive.” Even though they felt they could tell when someone was too drunk too drive, none of them could list the symptoms.

Many of the kids in the focus group said that they had driven after drinking. One of the main reasons why they did was because they were afraid to tell their parents or had no other way home. Again, time to get the parents involved! A teen driver calling their parents when they’ve had something to drink will result in far less punishment than the same teen driving drunk and getting pulled over or involved in a crash.

Symptoms are easy to teach. It is something they should be able to identify. However, IĀ  feel that .08 or .02 are really arbitrary, what does that mean to anyone who has never used a Breathalyzer? There needs to be another way to describe having too much to drink. There needs to be more in-school education like what MADD is doing, as well as use of beer goggles to show how much skills are impaired when drunk. Until you really show kids what can happen, I don’t think they will get it. There are also a number of safe ride organizations out there that can get a drunk kid home safely without involving the parents. These things should be spoken about. We can’t treat under aged drinking like we teach sex in school. If we pretend it doesn’t happen and hope it won’t happen we are doing a great disservice to these children. We need to acknowledge that teenagers drink and address the problem. That is the only way it will go away.

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Parents create driver’s ed course after death of children

Posted by lapearce on March 20, 2009


I hate reading about these reactionary decisions. I wish for once I could read, “Driver’s Ed course saves teen’s life” instead we always hear the opposite. Not surprising giving the state of driver’s ed in this country.

In North Carolina, a professional National Hot Rod Association driver, Doug Herbert, has started a program called B.R.A.K.E.S. aka ‘Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe’ after his 17-year-old and 12-year-old sons were killed in a car crash.

Even as a professional driver and the father of a teen driver, Herbert says that he had no idea how dangerous driving was, “I didn’t know that 6,000 teens lose their lives each year; it’s the number one killer.”

The B.R.A.K.E.S. program teaches what I think the DMV should teach from the get-go, things that everyone with a brain in their head and a dollar to give to looking into the problem agrees on: visual skills, space management, vehicle dynamics, hazard recognition.

Herbert has found that no one thinks the current system is enough, “We discovered that the kids felt like they weren’t learning enough in driver’s ed and wanted to teach them techniques to help them gain confidence behind the wheel.”

“They tend to panic and do nothing, but that’s not going to help the situation.”

But HerbertĀ  knows what I know, what all experts know, the way to get people to not panic and the way to get new drivers to respond correctly is, well, to teach them how to do it. It’s amazing that a concept this simple is completely over the head of the DMV.

I hope you have taken note from a few of the similarities in the programs I have discussed on this blog: they teach kids how to drive, and they are headed by professional race car drivers. There is something to both of these things. If you would like, I will happily give you a free lesson on a race track for you to see all that you do not know.

Posted in advocacy, crash, driving school | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Two teens injured in San Jose crash

Posted by lapearce on March 19, 2009

Last night a teen was seriously injured in a crash, a crash that happened because the driver was unable to judge the speed of an oncoming car.

A skill that comes with, you guessed it, experience.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the 17-year-old driver was heading east on a road and attempted to make a left turn in front of a truck heading west, “[he] made a left from the turn pocket, and should have yielded.”

The little 1992 Nissan Coupe carrying two 17-year-old boys was hit by a much larger 2007 GMC pickup on its side, breaking the pelvis of the passenger. The car eventually ended up on its top from the force of the collision.

While the boys are lucky to be alive, there is no doubt that serious physical therapy and pain are in their future. My best wishes to them in their long road to recovery.

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Driver’s training horor stories

Posted by lapearce on March 18, 2009

I recently conducted a survey where I asked people to share their driver’s training experience. I did so to confirm my belief that I am not the only one who sees the current driver’s training test as a joke. Here are some excerpts from my research:

“Was a 15 min ordeal in my case. Checked all the car functions and then had to reverse about 10-15 ft. Then a 10 min casual drive around the area and that was it. Pretty much a joke.”

— Kris, San Fransisco

“I passed the first time, it was all a joke.10-15 minute test: Start by checking wipers, lights etc, put seat belt on turn on car. Stop before the curb, check for pedestrians go forward. Drive around a few blocks, kept both hands on the wheel for the sake of passing. Had a few random blind spot turns, and a yield. Instructed to go into a certain lane, and back into the DMV. All in all about a 2 mile loop maximum. Yeah, a great big joke. Hardly any traffic, no freeway, no parallel parking.”

–James, Glendale

“My driving test definitely showed me why everyone is such a terrible driver. No freeway, no expressway, 10 minute cruise around the block with a simple “back-up against the curb.”A joke.”

— Andrew, San Jose

“Almost went into an oncoming lane when making a left hand turn (road markers were washed out) and still passed. I didn’t have to parallel park or do a 3-point turn, only reverse in a straight line next to a curb and basic traffic light procedures. No freeway driving, lasted maybe 15 minutes total.”

–Jamie, Bakersfield

“We went through all the switches and knobs of the car itself. Headlamps, turn signal, defroster, seat belt, etc. No parallel parking. Just pull over to the curb, put it in reverse, and go parallel to the curb for about 5 feet. No 3 point turn, no freeway driving, just driving in residential/business areas. I got negative points for not making a right hand turn when the light was red, and the cars coming from the perpendicular street were still far away. Negative points for not looking both ways while going through an intersection when it was green. (Seriously? All it takes is a quick glance, not full head turning.)Passed. It was weak, probably 15 minutes of total driving.”

–Chris, Santa Ana

” In the mid-1990s I took a driver’s test in Switzerland, and they were every bit as meticulous as you would expect the Swiss to be. It included parallel parking, parking on a hill, full braking, driving a longish stretch in reverse, freeway, countryside (to see if you know what to do when there’s farm equipment or livestock on the road), city. It’s the law there that you turn your engine off at stop lights, so you lost points if you didn’t do that, and you also lost points if you didn’t drive smoothly enough. Oh, and your blind spot comment reminded me that they def. check proper use of mirrors. People aren’t better drivers over there by accident.”

–Martie, Watsonsville

“Age at test time: 16 I did the test in my parent’s car, which I had never driven before and was not used to. Did I have to parallel park? – No. Did I have to three-point-turn? – No. Did I have to go on the freeway? – No. Did it matter where I put my hands? – Not sure, but the guy wasn’t looking. Did I pass? – Yes. Was it a total joke? – YES.

You know a little bit about the racing I do, so you know I’m reasonably qualified to say “It was a joke.” Their was no testing of the new driver’s ability to avoid accidents and control the car through such an evasive manoeuvre. No testing of threshold braking ability, which is something that is absolutely crucial to being able to stop a car in an emergency (whether or not the car has ABS. I’ve seen drivers simply not push the pedal hard enough in an ABS-equipped car.) What else…. no talk about what is the safest seating position, no mention of basic vehicle & tire dynamics (which are crucial to being able to understand how a car behaves at the limit in an accident-avoidance situation). ”

–Jeff, Fullerton

Not a single person I’ve asked so far has told me that the test was difficult, or even that it wasn’t a joke. My favorite comments are:

“My driving test definitely showed me why everyone is such a terrible driver.”

“People aren’t better drivers over there [Switzerland] by accident”

And Jeff’s comment.

Wake up Joan, you aren’t fooling anyone with your comment about how California’s driver’s education system is good. It isn’t even getting a passing grade.

Here is another blog I found where the comments are the same: http://www.sodahead.com/blog/44461/what-were-the-requirements-to-pass-your-drivers-test/

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Bumper stickers allow parents to keep tabs on teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on March 17, 2009

“How’s My Driving” bumper stickers are now available for teen drivers. “The program lets people in the community monitor how teens are driving. Parents register online and get a ID number that is on a bumper sticker. Then people in the community can go to the Web site: www.safeteendriveronline.com Type in the ID number and leave a message for parents about their teen’s driving.”

The mother who started the program, Valerie Peterson, feels the program will help new drivers because it will make them aware that they are being watched and adjust their behavior.

“I think it will heighten his awareness of the fact that the community is watching him and helping to keep him safe on the road.”

I don’t want to downplay the attempts parents are making to ensure the safety of their children, however, I feel that if we were to improve driver’s training we wouldn’t need monitoring systems, GPS, text messages when teens go above a certain speed, and all the other band-aid fixes we’re giving the driver’s education system instead of just fixing it.

Hows my driving? How about Hows my driving education? Call 1-800-FAILURE

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AAA finds teens kill others more often than themselves

Posted by lapearce on March 9, 2009

It has been confirmed that the teen car crash death epidemic in the United States has an even larger effect on other people than it does on the under-educated teen driver.

AAA released a study last week that revealed that teen drivers kill twice as many passengers, occupants in other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, etc than they do themselves. According to AAA, “Nationally, between 1998 and 2007, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed 28,138 people, of whom 10,388 (36.9%) were teen drivers themselves. The remaining 17,750 (63.1%) deaths included 8,829 passengers of the teen drivers, 6,858 occupants of other vehicles operated by adult drivers, and 2,063 non-motorists and others.”

Now, there is good news, teen drivers are becoming better drivers due to Graduated Drivers License programs, which California does have. However, AAA says that 49 states fall short of the AAA guidelines for these programs. AAA also strongly urges the involvement of parents, which California doesn’t do. Why not have the parents attend a portion of driver’s ed with their child? Or offer a separate program to instruct parents on how to best teach their children how to drive?

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