Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Archive for May, 2009

Pre-prom crash takes life of 16 year old

Posted by lapearce on May 31, 2009

There is nothing sadder than a child dieing. Especially when that child dies during a time that is supposed to be happy and joyous, like prom. This weekend in Los Angeles 16 year old Jennifer Perla was killed on the way to her high school prom after the driver, a fellow teen, tried to avoid another car and flipped the SUV he was driving. Jennifer was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car.

The vehicle was filled with happy teens on their way to their senior prom for Taft High School for what should have been a night of celebration. Jennifer had been invited to prom by a senior. She was a sophomore and just turn 16 a week before the crash. She loved to dance and wanted to be in the FBI. So many dreams cut short. The other occupants in the SUV, including Jennifer’s sister, were also injured. Lord knows the driver will never recover for what happened as well.

My deepest condollances for the friends and family.


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Choosing restrictions over education

Posted by lapearce on May 31, 2009

Pennsylvania is getting on board with restricting the number of passengers new drivers can have, restricts cell phone use, and adds night driving to driver’s ed, but as this article by Suzanne Cassidy on Lancaster Online points out, there are cons to even the most beneficial laws. There is a real connection between the number of passengers and fatal collisions with new drivers. A lack of experience, paired with the task of learning how to drive and familiarizing themselves with roads, passengers add another dangerous distraction to an already dangerous task. However, even the risks don’t stop people from opposing restrictions on the number of passengers teens have.

Most of the people interviewed for the article, even teens, support banning phones and adding night time driving. When it comes to restricting passengers, however, some people think the bill goes too far. Lancaster County state Rep. Gordon Denlinger voted against the law, stating, “In these days of high gas prices, I felt the impact of forcing more cars and more teen drivers onto the road was a negative”. Denlinger also has a 16 year old son who carpools to school with friends. Denlinger is “highly confident” that his son and their friends can handle the responsibility. I’d like to ask Denlinger what makes him think that his child can beat the facts.

The economy, the environment, the fact that so many families can’t afford to give their child a car, and so many high school parking lots weren’t built to handle every teen driving themselves are all valid complaints for the bill. But can these complaints stack up against the impacts of the death of a teen to a family?

Using laws to replace education

The article goes into explaining how driver’s ed programs have been cut from many high schools, and that teens aren’t getting the education they need on the road. Instead of giving new drivers the education they need, are we as a nation trying to fill this void with restrictions? And if so, is that a suitable alternative? I come from the mindset of giving new drivers the education they need so they don’t get in trouble is a better solution. The problem is that so many states are relying on legislation to restrict driving, that there is no good data to compare comprehensive driver’s training with graduated drivers license requirements.

It’s not that I’m against GDL or increase restrictions for new drivers. I’m simply against using law to replace education. I don’t feel it is the answer. Taking away distractions and decreasing the hours new drivers can drive help in many situations, but they can’t do anything to save a teen once they are in an emergency. These laws also face a chronic lack of enforcement and are often times ignored by new drivers. A while back a 16 year old got in a crash near my house. He had three passengers in the car and crashed because he was going too fast for the turn he was making and was more or less showing off to his passengers. Luckily, no one was hurt. He wasn’t supposed to have passengers under California law. The officer who responded to the crash did not write up that he had passangers, telling the boys that, “he didn’t become a cop to be a dick”. By “not being a dick” he taught these boys, and all of their friends, that they didn’t have to follow the law, which in turn put them all at risk of crashing.

Laws can be broken, but education can never be taken away from someone. Teens all across this nation are learning that they don’t need to follow GLDs. They are being taught this by friends, family, and police officers who don’t enforce the laws. I feel that only increased parental involvement and better drivers training can overcome these feelings of superiority over the law. Until people understand why these laws exist and truly grasp the dangers, what is to stop them from breaking the laws?

Maybe we should increase fines for defying GLD laws, amp up enforcement and use the revenue to fund better driver’s ed courses. That would make the laws more sustainable and the drivers better.

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More states to restrict cell phone use while driving

Posted by lapearce on May 31, 2009

21 states have now banned, or restricted, cell phone use for new drivers, and 24 other states have bills that would do the same (what are the five states without any restrictions? I’d like to know). These states have good reason to ban phones, the National Safety Council has found that drivers are 4x more likely to crash while using a cell phone. Inattention kills, and in today’s wired world it is so easier to pick up the phone and stop paying attention to the road around us. We’re all guilty of using our phones while we drive, but in some states, that can lead to a heavy fine, and for young drivers, even worse punishment.

Here are some of the new laws coming to a state near you:

Kentucky has two bills on the floor that would prohibit drivers from using cell phones while driving. Punishment for adults is a fine, for teen drivers, they get another 180 days added to their provisional license

Missouri passed a law that ban anyone under the sage of 21 from texting while driving at the cost of $200 and two points on your record. I have to wonder if we do become texting while driving experts after we turn 21, however.

Kansas (same article as above) prohibits anyone under the age of 16 1/2 from using a phone while driving. It’s a start, but this law is still too weak.

The Tulsa World article brings up some troubling statistics about the effectiveness of cell phone and texting bans, however:

he insurance institute last year studied a cell phone ban for drivers under 18 in North Carolina. Researchers found that teens leaving high school in the afternoon changed little before and after the ban started.

About 11 percent of teen drivers were seen using phones before the law. It increased to 12 percent after the ban, the study found.

Rader, the insurance institute spokesman, said laws restricting cell phone use don’t appear to be effective. He pointed out that most teens interviewed in North Carolina knew about the cell phone ban, but didn’t think it was vigorously enforced.

“If drivers don’t believe they are likely to be spotted and ticketed, they’re unlikely to change their behavior,” he said.

Another study of a ban on handheld cell phones for New York drivers turned up similar results. Cell phone use dropped immediately after the ban started, but a year later it had picked up again.

“As soon as the publicity died down, cell phone use went back up to almost where it was before,” Rader said.

The moral of the story us: if the laws aren’t being enforced, they won’t be followed. It doesn’t matter how dangerous talking and driving is, it doesn’t matter how many people die doing so, no enforcement = no compliance.

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Most deadly time for new drivers is here

Posted by lapearce on May 29, 2009

Jonathan Schulte and Gillian Sabet

Prom, graduation, late summer nights… put all those things together and you get a deadly combination for teen drivers. Each year there is an increase in crashes among teen drivers during this time.  I can remember deadly crashes happening in the area every year, each one just as tragic as the last. Young lives cut tragically short while celebrating the end of another school year, the passage of another milestone, or just a Tuesday night with no school on Wednesday.

The crash that I remember the most, the crash that many people in Orange County can’t forget, happened four years ago this past Tuesday on May 26, 2005.

It was prom night at Servite High School.  Jonathan Schulte and Gillian (Jill) Sabet were passangers of their friend’s SUV as their rode to the dance.  On the way the driver became distracted and the car started to drift. She over corrected causing the vehicle to roll killing both Jonathan and Gillian.

What distracted the driver? She was looking for a piece of gum.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jill’s parents at a recent AAA Teen Driving Safety Fair. They, like so many other parents, were moved to act after the death of their daughter, forming Journey Safe, which teaches teens about the danger of distractions. Their site has a beautiful memorial to both Jill and Jonathan, and says so elequently what should have happened to Jill and Jonathan instead of the fate they were met with:

Jill and Jonathan should have lived long and happy lives. They should have experienced the joy of their senior year in high school, graduation and college. They should have traveled around the world with their friends the way they wanted to. Whether to each other or to someone else, they should have married one day; they should have had children to love as they were loved so deeply by their own parents.

There are 6,000 stories that happen every year that are similar to Jonathan’s and Jill’s. For those that have been lost, their stories need to be remembered, and their legacies need to live on. For those still with us, there are steps that can be taken to help ensure that they make it to see another school year.

Three ways to protect your teen driver this summer:

  1. If you have a teen driver, enroll them in a supplemental car control clinic. Getting them behind the wheel teaching them safe driving practices is the best way to ensure their safety. These classes can cost a few hundred dollars, however, the cost is usually less than the insurance deductible if your child is in a crash. Here is a list of some upcoming classes I have found.
  2. Talk to your child about the dangers on the road. Believe it or not, they will listen to you. A survey of teens by NHTSA found that when it comes to driving, teens listen to their parents more than any other authority. So sit them down and talk to them about driving safely. I have links to AAA and NHTSA on the side that have good information on what to talk about.
  3. Set up a parent-teen driving contract. Teens with parents who set restrictions are 7x less likely to be involved in a crash. Don’t be afraid to set restrictions. Remind your child that driving is a privilege, not a right, and that they can lose that privilege if they do not respect it. The AAA Parent-Teen Driving Contract is very good.

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Up coming driving schools

Posted by lapearce on May 29, 2009

Teen learns car control at Driving Concepts school

Teen learns car control at Driving Concept's school

This is not a complete list at all. Here are some of the classes taking place across the nation that will go beyond DMV programs to teach teens what they really need to know in order to be safe on the road. Let me know if you know of a program you would like to add.

May 30-31

California: BMWCCA Street Survival, Cal. Speedway, Fontana

This is a very good group, I know many of the instructors personally and I highly endorse their program. It is also nation wide, for other upcoming events go here.

Indiana: St. Mary’s Hospital Free Teen Driving Academy

Classroom based program that will focus on a number of dangers of driving. Also includes a drunk driving simulator.

June 3

Florida: Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Teen Driver Challenge

This sounds like a great program. It is two days, one in classroom, one in the car and it is free.

June 6-7

California: Driving Concepts Teen Car Control Clinic

This is my program, so I’m a little partial to it 😀 you can read my review of one of our previous programs here

June 9

California: CHP Street Smart class, Moorepark

This isn’t the most comprehensive program available to say the least, but it is free, so there is no reason  not to go if you are in the area. I discuss this program here.

June 12-13

Nevada: Driving School at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park, Pahrump

This is a new program. If you want my opinion, I think it is overpriced, but it has good bones. For comparison, our program costs $100 less, is tax deductible, and lasts two more hours. But we aren’t in Nevada. And we don’t have a race track (in their defense, those are expensive to rent out).

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Allstate Foundation announces winners of Safe Teen Driving Contest

Posted by lapearce on May 28, 2009

It went widely unknown in this nation, but May was national Youth Traffic Safety Month. In honor of this, The Allstate Foundation and National Organization for Youth Safety held a contest called 2009 Act out Loud: Raising Voice for Safe Teen Driving. The contest encouraged teens to conduct safe driving projects during May. 20 teams took part in the competition nation-wide.

After 80,000 votes were cast, the top three high schools rose to the top:

3rd place Coral Springs Charter, Coral Springs, FL prize: $3,000

2nd place Massapequa High School, Massapequa, NY $5,000

1st place Anoka High School, Anoka, MN $10,000

Aknoka HS Students in Presentation for Campaign

The team from Anoka won with their project “Get the 411 on Teen Driving! Stay Connected! Save Teen lives!” Which used video, as well as information about Minnesota’s driving laws to help educate teens about safe driving.

Anoka High School plans on using their prise money to fund school and community groups that educate teens about traffic safety. Second place Massapequa high School plans to buy a drunk driving simulator to use in driver’s training (great idea kids!)

Congratulations to the winners and all of the schools who took part. You kids are making a difference!

Oh, and in other news, Allstate is hiring a corporate relations manager for their teen driving foundation. I wish I was qualified (and that the job was in Calif.) Job details

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NSC to award people/organizations who save teen lives on the road

Posted by lapearce on May 28, 2009

Finally, a tip of the hat to those who dedicate their lives trying to save lives out on the road. The National Saftey Council announced the first installment of the “Teen Driving Safety Leadership Award” to be awarded to groups or inviduals who have made “exceptional contributions” to reducing injuries and deaths among teen drivers.

The award will focus on four areas of driving safety leadership:

  • Advocacy
  • Leadership or coordination of an effort to adopt best practices
  • Enacting legislation based on proven safety methods
  • Enhancing public understanding of teen driving safety issues and prevention methods

If you feel as though you, or someone you know, should be considered, visit: and apply by July 31. The awards will be presented at the NSC’s Annual Defensive Driving Award Banquet in October.

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Ford introduces “MyKey” in hopes to save lives

Posted by lapearce on May 28, 2009

Is custom programing that limited speed and requires seat belt use the key to saving lives? Ford thinks it is. Yesterday they unvailed MyKey, a system that will come standard on all new Fords.

How MyKey works is that the car comes with two keys, one for the parents and one for the new driver. The car will drive normally for the parent, but for the teen, chips in the key will tell the car not to go past a certain speed, not turn the stereo on until the driver is buckled up, and even control how loud the music is. It will also prevent traction control from being turned off, and let you know sooner when the car is running out of gas.

So, is MyKey the answer? Well, it can’t hurt. MyKey is great because it eliminates two big cause of deaths among new drivers: excessive speed and lack of seat belts. Current technology can just make parents aware when their new driver goes past a certain speed, or chime annoyingly at the teen to buckle up. This actually stops them. I think that over time, it will create better habits in the teens with cars that have MyKey.

The program won’t solve all problems associated with new drivers, but it’s a step in the right direction. We always tell our families that we can’t ride home with them. Now, in some way, we can.

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Unlicensed drivers ticketed as they try to drive away

Posted by lapearce on May 27, 2009

Now, this isn’t a story about new drivers per say, but more one about how people don’t understand the privilege and the responsibility of driving.

In Westminster, California, police ticketed and impounded the vehicles of 11 people who attempted to drive away from their court appearances on suspended or revoked driver’s licenses.
On one hand, the story is comical: police stopping people leaving their court appearances after having their licenses suspended or revoked. On the other hand, it is down right appalling and shameful. This just goes to show how much respect people have for driving, this privilege they are granted, if they drive away from the court just minutes after having that privilege taken away.

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