Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Archive for June, 2009

Stories from the road: people who don’t use their mirrors

Posted by lapearce on June 28, 2009

The road to Glacier Point with Half Dome in the background, Yosemite National Park, California

The road to Glacier Point with Half Dome in the background, Yosemite National Park, California

I spent the last four days on a nice trip with my boyfriend to the Sierra Nevada mountains. We went to the eastern side and explored: Fossil Falls, Manzanar WWII Japanese American camp, Mammoth, Convict Lake, June Lake, Devils Postpile and Mono Lake, then we took Tioga Pass into Yosemite, seeing Tuolomne Meadows for the first time. 2 1/2 tanks of gas and 700 miles later and we’re back: 600 unread items in my google reader (about half about teen drivers, so I’ve got some good posts coming), a couple dead celebrities, and a lot of stressful experiences with people who can’t drive.

My boyfriend and I both have good driving experience. We both instruct teen drivers through Driving Concepts and both take our cars to the track where we hone our own driving skills. We are alert, we are aware, we watch our mirrors, and we are courteous and cautious drivers on the road. That’s because we’ve made it our business to be that way. I can guarantee you that we are in the minority.

My biggest pet peeve of all the drivers we had to experience this weekend were the ones who would be going slower than traffic and not allow others to pass. Much of our driving was on one lane roads with turn offs for slower traffic or passing areas. We would get stuck behind other cars that would brake through turns, go 10mph below the speed limit and more nerve racking: go into the on coming lane in turns. Talk about bad drivers. But then, when a passing lane would come up they would speed up! And when a turn out would present itself they wouldn’t take it!

Why? Is it because they are rude? Do they feel like we have no right to go faster, that we should be content with their speed and poor driving habits? Do they feel as if they go a little bit faster the driver behind them will be content? I don’t think it’s any of these things. I think it’s because they aren’t paying attention.

These drivers drive cars that are like all of ours: they have three mirrors used to observe what is beside them or behind them. But to work, people need to look at them. To be safe, you should scan your mirrors every few seconds so you know what is happening around you at all times. That way if the mattress in the back of the truck in front of you suddenly falls off you already know where your openings are to take them, saving precious seconds that are the difference between crashing and just getting your adrenaline up.

Unfortunately, it seems like no one looks at their mirrors ever, except maybe when they change lanes, if us other drivers are lucky. So instead of having a nice peaceful drive, going at our pace, enjoying the scenery, we get stuck behind grandpa in his Jetta, going 20 mph, looking straight ahead, completely unaware of those pieces of glass on the side of his car and the center of his windshield.

Please, drivers of America, do us all a favor: use those mirrors as they were attended. Use turn outs if you are going slower than traffic (ie if you have a line of cars behind you) stay in the right lane unless you are passing and please, for the safety and security of us all, don’t speed up if someone is passing you! I know it is straight and you can go faster, but be curtious to the people who want to go faster than you and slow down, so they can pass quickly and safely, avoiding any potential on comming traffic. And teach your new drivers to do the same.

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Teen crash rate in Alabama is increasing

Posted by lapearce on June 24, 2009

The Alabama Highway Patrol found that teen crashes increased 22 percent from 2007 to 2008, injuries increased 17 percent and the fatality rate among new drivers increased 1 percent. At one level, a 22 percent increase in crashes with only a 1 percent increase in fatalities says that cars are getting safer, or teens are crashing in safer ways (ie more low speed collisions). On the other side of the coin, however, you have some numbers that don’t fit into this country’s insatiable fix to legislate every facet of new driving: from when you can drive, to who you can drive with, to what you can do while driving, laws that are supposed to reduce crashes and save lives.

Alabama in-acted graduated driver’s licenses in 2002 that restricted night driving from 12 a.m.- 6 a.m., restricted passengers to three, and suspended licenses for six months for anyone with a restricted driver who broke certain driving laws. Alabama is currently looking to further strengthen their laws that are weak by today’s standards. Even though Alabama has some restrictions on teen drivers, they don’t have the crucial building block to creating good driving habits:

They don’t require driver’s ed.

This is the theme of the week with news, it seems, as both Florida and Tennessee, states that also have very high fatality and crash rates among new drivers, are recognizing that the states’ lack of driver’s education is probably to blame.

In Alabama, programs that are available (but not required) are finding that the public is appathetic to the problem. One such program, Calhoun County School Dristric’s driver’s education, has been discontinued.

“We really didn’t feel like we had a lot of students interested in taking driver’s education this summer. Our numbers have been dwindling the last few years,” Donald Turner of the school district said.

Butch Wright, who has tought driver’s education in Alabama for 39 years, says education is vital to a teen’s saftey on

AL, TN, and FL all scored low on Allstates recent study of dangerous states for teens to drive in. They dont require drivers education

AL, TN, and FL all scored low on Allstate's recent study of dangerous states for teens to drive in. They don't require driver's education

the road. He also feels that it is important that the teen be taught by a professional, and not their parents. “It’s just easier for someone other than a parent to teach kids to drive. It’s very beneficial, and it takes the pressure off of parents that causes them to argue with their children,” Wright said.

With these three states all showing that a lack of driver’s education has a direct effect on the death rates of their drivers, I have to wonder why nothing is being done to stop it. At the very least why aren’t parents looking for education programs for their teens? And why are legislatures focusing on restrictions and not education? Restrictions, in my mind, are a lot like taking a child’s hand away from a hot pot and saying “no” but not telling them why not to touch the pot. You turn your head for a second and he’s reaching for the pot again, because he doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t touch it.

We need to teach new drivers why safe driving practices work.

(hat tip to ThinkB4YouDrive on twitter)

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Mother wants to save teens after losing her two sons

Posted by lapearce on June 24, 2009

Driving a winding road at high speed is called a canyon run and is very popular with inexperienced teen drivers who dont recognize the risks

Driving a winding road at high speed is called a canyon run and is very popular with inexperienced teen drivers who don't recognize the risks

It was 18 months ago when the crash happened. Donovon Barclay, 17, was driving his two cousins Shane Barclay, 22, and Tyler Barclay, 17 in his 1995 Saab at over 80mph through Laurel Glen Road, a winding canyon road in the Santa Rosa Mountains. What happened next would change the life of Shannon Barclay Adams, the mother of Shane and Tyler, forever.

Donovon took a corner too fast and lost control. The car flipped over and hit an embankment at great speed. Donovon suffered injuries that kept him hospitalized for several days, but his cousins, Shane and Tyler, didn’t make it out of the crash alive. Shannon explained how horrible the following court proceedings were, because she loved her nephew but wanted justice for her sons. In the end, Donovon was charged as a minor and slapped on the wrist with three months of counciling. He never appologized for the crash that killed his cousins.

Now 19, Donovon has four moving violations on his record and apparently never learned his lesson.

Shannon admits that she was not perfect in teaching her children how to drive and be safe on the road. Shane had just been in a crash prior to the one that took his life, and Tyler crashed unlicened and drunk at 16, injuring someone else. He was remoseful of the crash and served three months in juvinille hall, was on probation, and did community service.

The differences between Tyler’s consequences for injuring someone while drunk and Donovon’s consequences for killing two people for driving wrecklessly show a huge disconnect in the legal system between crime and punishment, and put driving under the influence beyond other crimes, even if the other crimes cause greater harm.

Shannon wants to help teens learn that there are other things they can do behind the wheel, other than drinking and driving, that can destroy lives and families forever. “It’s a huge misconception,” she said. “Most teens are driving with nothing more than testosterone in their systems. Parents need to be aware; it’s not only drunken driving that needs attention.”

The CHP reports that of the 25,871 injury crashes statewide in 2007 in which a teen driver was at fault, nearly 35 percent were caused by speeding and about 7 percent from being under the influence.

Shannon encourages parents to be aware of the risks, and to sign a parent-teen contract with their new driver. She also encourages parents to use technology that will alart them to dangerous driving behavior. “Honest, I’m not perfect either,” she said. “But that is what has to change; we can’t put these kids on the road.”

She is also working on a book about her teens and hopes that more new drivers will understand the risks associated with speed and wreckless driving. “If I can save just one teen, then my boys would not be lost in the carelessness of the system,” she said. “Reckless driving killed my sons. It’s an issue that needs attention.”

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Florida asks parents to do more with teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on June 23, 2009

Possible scenerio of parent & teen learning how to drive on Floridas web site

Possible scenerio of parent & teen learning how to drive on Florida's web site

Florida does not require teens to have any former driver’s education before they can obtain a license. The state also high on Allstate’s list of deadliest states for new drivers. So in response, the state is asking parents to do what it cannot: teach teens how to drive. It should be easy, because for many teens, parents are the only driving instructors they get in Florida.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles just added a portion to their teen driving web site designed to help parents help their new drivers. A little late to the party, but better late than never.

The page is designed more to inform parents of teen driving restrictions than to give them advice on how to teach their teens to drive. What information the site does have for parents is fairly basic and common sense, in my opinion, but I don’t think I should assume that everyone knows that you should come to a complete stop at stop signs, or look behind you when backing up. Lord knows so few people actually do these things on the road.

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Tennessee deaths increase after graduated driving laws

Posted by lapearce on June 23, 2009

Winding rural roads, low seatbelt use, and no drivers ed blamed for Tennessees teen crash rate

Winding rural roads, low seatbelt use, and no driver's ed blamed for Tennessee's teen crash rate

Tennessee passed graduated driving laws that restrict the hours teens can drive and the passengers they can have eight years ago. Regardless of this law, Tennessee is still the sixth deadliest state for new drivers, what’s more, Tennessee’s deadliest year for new drivers came in 2002, a year after the law was passed, when deaths jumped from 87 to 106.

Kendell Poole of the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration knows what the problem is: Tennessee has no requirement for driver’s ed. “If we had mandatory driver education, we would be able to reduce teen fatalities across the state.” She said.

Tennessee officials say that the state is probably dangerous due to the lack of required driver’s ed, poor seatbelt use among teens, and text messaging. They also point to the twisty rural roads as probably increasing teen deaths, which I agree with. Teens statistically are the worse at factoring speed and turning for curves and it is a common place for crashes involving new drivers.

Irwin Goldzweig, an assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville agrees that the answer is driver’s training: “It is like kindergarten — you have to have it because it provides the basic essentials.” He also points out that Florida, another state that doesn’t mandate driver’s education, is also very dangerous for new drivers.

I can’t believe any state out there allows teens to get a license without teaching them how to drive. It would be like teaching a kid how to play football by giving him a rulebook. Anyone who has played sports or have a child in sports knows that this isn’t the way to do it. Practice is the way to teach a child how to play sports.

Most pre-season sport camps set up to prepare new players for the game spend far more than 50 hours teaching children how to play with drills and practice games. I’ve asked driving students of mine who excelled in sports how long they thought it took before they would call themselves good at the sport they played. The typical answer is years.

Years spent learning how to do something that may pay for college or maybe, just maybe lead to a career. But driving is something that people do every day. It is the most dangerous thing for a teen to do and they are literally risking their lives every time they get behind the wheel. Yet we let them do this without any training?

We have lost our minds, and the death rate of Tennessee makes this obvious.

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Can you teach a teen to drive with a box?

Posted by lapearce on June 22, 2009

With the internet, tv and other innovated communication media it seems like more and more education is going digital. Need to know how to sell stuff on ebay? Buy a CD. Need to learn a language? Do it online. Need to learn how to drive? Buy Driver’s Ed in a Box. But is it good enough?

The program Driver’s Ed in a Box comes with:

  • 15 videos
  • six-part audio series
  • textbook
  • student workbook
  • parent companion
  • training mirrors

The program is designed to: “work together to guide parent and student as you work together to build the skills and habits needed to become a collision-free driver. “

It is broken up in pieces: part one is for before the teen drives, part two teaches “collision-free driving” and part three goes into drug, alcohol, etc. It comes with a check list for parents to keep track of their teen’s education, and materials for the parent to act as driving instruction.

I commend what they are trying to do here, they realize that the current system is problem, they realize that in-car driving is the solution, but is putting the program on DVDs and having the parent be the instructor the answer? The program claims that it focuses on in-car driving more than classroom driving. But their own preview video shows poor habits, such as crossing hands on the steering wheel.

The program is meant to satisfy state driver’s ed requirements, and is a lot like homeschooling your child. A lot of what is said in the program’s preview video is true too, the understand a lot of what is wrong with the system and want to help your child avoid crashes. The success of this program is on the parents and the teens to follow through: to dedicate themselves to watching 15 videos, to do all of the activities, etc. At least with a Driver’s Ed class the child is forced to go and learn, what is to stop them from stopping midway with the home program and just pretending like they finished?

The video is designed to show teens, instead of tell them, what habits are good and bad behind the wheel. I’m just not sure if they can be done anywhere else than on a closed course with a professional instructor, however.  It is obvious that no matter how many times we tell teens speeding is bad, or cell phones are dangerous that they’ll defy us. But put them in a car and have them try to handle a high-speed turn, or drive distracted (in a controlled environment, of course) and suddenly, instead of eye-rolling teens you have wide-eyed teens, and statements such as, “I am never talking on my phone again”.

On the other side of the coin, however, parental involvement is the difference between life and death for many teen drivers, and most state licensed Driver’s Ed programs simply fall short in instructing your child how to drive. Most of them focus more on passing the test than how to be safe drivers, and that is just abysmal. I don’t want to talk this program down too much, because I think it has potential, and I do not doubt that it could in fact be better than other driver’s ed options out there. It’s just up to the parent and the teen to make the most of it, and other options available to them, such as supplementary in-car education through car control clinics.

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My plea to Kansas: increase your driving age!

Posted by lapearce on June 21, 2009

Most states in the United States require teens to be sixteen before they can get their license. In some states, the age is lower, typically in agricultural states where children are needed to help on the farm. Now, let me just preface this right now: I live in Orange County California, not exactly farm country. I will let you know that I am ignorant to farm life and the activities required of teens in these communities.

Disclaimer aside, Kansas is one of those states with a ridiculously low age for getting a permit and license. Even though studies show the longer a teen waits to get his/her license, the safer they are on the road, Kansas still allows teens to get their permits, and even restricted licenses, at 14! The farm permit, as it is called, requires proof that the teen works on a farm that is 20 acres or larger, and that they go through the required driver’s training. Under the restricted license they can only drive: “to and from school (not school activities); to, from or in connection with any farm related work, or at any time when accompanied by a licensed adult driver 18 years of age or older.” 15-year-olds can also get a restricted driver for going to and from school or work with similar restrictions.

On Thursday six-year-old, Eduardo Moreno, was killed after he was thrown from a vehicle driven by a 15-year-old, Antonio Moreno, who I assume had one of these restricted driver’s license. The teen lost control of the vehicle and it flipped. Even though both boys were wearing their seatbelts Eduardo was ejected. He later died at the hospital, where Antonio is still recovering.

While crashes like this can happen at any age, they are just more likely when the teen is younger. Kansas is having new laws taking effect next January that will greatly improve the driving laws in Kansas. For example, right now 16-year-olds can get a license without ANY formal education or in time driving, next year they will need to take a written and driving test, or simply show proof that they completed driver’s ed. However even with these lukewarm, but needed, improvements, 14-year-olds will still be able to get farm permits in Kansas, and 15-year-olds will be able to get restricted licenses.

14 is simply too young. I’m sure there are plenty of good arguments from the farm community to allow children to receive licenses this young, but it is just too young.

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West Virgina teen driving laws change July 10

Posted by lapearce on June 21, 2009

Fifteen-year-old Kenny Collins said he often sees students carry up to 10 of their friends to school in the beds of their pickup trucks.

"Fifteen-year-old Kenny Collins said he often sees students carry up to 10 of their friends to school in the beds of their pickup trucks."

West Virgina has been lagging behind on the recommended restrictions on graduated driver’s licenses that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has recommended. They’re fixing that next month, however, as they adopt the advice and upgrade their GDL status to “good” under the IIHS’s rating system, the highest rating available.

What does this mean for teen drivers in West Virgina? In three weeks drivers under the age of 17 won’t be able to drive unsupervised after 10 p.m., no non relative teen passangers for the first six months of driving, are required to have 50 hours of driving before they get their license, and now can be pulled over and cited for cell phone use.

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New Jesery’s next target: GPS

Posted by lapearce on June 21, 2009

 

BMW has a flat dashboard and controls on the passenger side so passengers can operate the GPS while the driver drives

BMW has a flat dashboard and controls on the passenger side so passengers can operate the GPS while the driver drives

New Jersey is a national leader in driving laws right now. They were one of the earlier states to ban cell phone use and text messaging while driving, and the first state to introduce teen driving stickers for new drivers. Now New Jersey Assemblyman Harvey Smith has his aim on legislature’s next target: GPS.

 

The use of GPS in a car is arguably safer than looking down at maps and directions. Play-by-play spoken directions with maps that follow your location are meant to help prevent drivers from being distracted. They probably do, except at one key time:

When you program them.

The process of adding/finding a destination and telling the GPS unit to get you there may only take a minute, but it’s a minute when your eyes are off the road. Newer BMWs have the dash face the center of the car, and not the driver, specifically so the passenger can program the GPS for the driver while he/she drives. Other GPS units, like Honda’s, are voice activated to limit the amount of time you look at them. 

I understand the danger here, but the process takes so little time that I can’t see how it can be enforced. The police will need to have a sharp eye in order to give out the $100 fine for programing a GPS unit while you drive. Ironically, this could be distracting for the police.

This is not yet law, it was just been introduced to the legislature on June 8. It needs to get through both houses and the governor before it becomes illegal to program your GPS while driving. The article linked above asks a very good question: what’s next? Ipods? Looking for gum? Smacking your kids in the backseat?

How about we just get some common sense, figure out this stuff is dangerous and stop doing it? I spoke to a 19 year old girl last night who totalled her last car because she was texting while she drove. I told her how that wasn’t a very good ideas and she told me, “oh, I’ll still do it.”

Paging Darwin to the U.S. roads.

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For Neda: a victim of the Iranian government

Posted by lapearce on June 20, 2009

I am not Iranian, but I am very concerned about what is happening in Iran right now. I’ve been following what has happened on twitter all week long, and today I went to a pro-democracy rally today in Los Angeles. CNN has been on all day as we have been following what has happened.

Protests happened all over the world today, especially in Iran, where police and military forces used tear gas, batons, guns, and even dropped acid (or boiling water) on protesters from helicopters. One of the most emotional pieces of information to come out of Iran today was the shooting and killing of a girl named Neda.

Neda was 16 years old. She was standing by her father’s side at a rally when she was shot in the chest by a snipper. Someone recorded her death on video, and if you want to see it, I’m sure you can find it on youtube or on the news. I don’t want to link it because it incredibly emotional and difficult to watch her die. To see people struggling to save her, and then the shrikes and cries from the crowd as she dies. 

I want to take a moment from what is happening in the United States, our own politics and issues, and look at what others are struggling. Pray for the Iranian people and for their safety.

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