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, 2010

Will New Jersey’s New Teen Driving Law Make a Difference?

Posted by lapearce on March 27, 2010

An example of the New Jersey new driver sticker

New Jersey’s Kyleigh’s Law is no doubt controversial. A lawsuit arguing that the law was unconstitutional was just thrown out, paving the law for the law that would require drivers under the age of 21 to have a decal on their license plate to identify themselves as having provisional licenses. So will this only cause new drivers problem by identifying them without actually leading to saved lives? Will teens just take the stickers off leaving them pointless? Or will they actually make a difference? 

A lot of states have provisional licenses that put certain restrictions on teen drivers that regular drivers don’t have. However, these laws are difficult to enforce. It is difficult for a police officer to look at a driver for a few seconds as they pass by and ascertain if they are young enough to have a provisional license and if they are breaking a provisional law. Because of that, a lot of police just don’t enforce provisional laws unless the driver is breaking another law at the same time. In an article about a recent change to Indiana provisional laws the police said that they see the laws more as a deterrent and hope that people just follow the laws. 

Even though a lot of states see provisional laws as being secondary offenses that they can add onto a ticket after pulling a teen over for braking another law, or just expect teens to voluntarily comply with the laws, believe it or not, these laws do work. Provisional licences actually reduce crashes by 19%. For every teen that ignores the laws, there are a handful more that follow at least some of the laws some of the time, which helps keep deaths down. The fear a lot of teen have about being pulled over and punished by their parents also does have an impact on how teens drive. They don’t want to get caught doing something they aren’t supposed to do  by a police officer, and many don’t want to risk losing their license in the process.

This is why I think that Kyleigh’s Law will make a difference in New Jersey. New Jersey already has some of the nation’s toughest teen driving laws. It is also ranked one of the best states to be a new driver because of its tough stance on new drivers. People who argue that it is unconstitutional by “unfairly” singling out teens are really missing the point here. Driving is a privilege, not a right. And if it is unconstitutional to put a sticker on a teen’s car it should be unconstitutional to restrict any drivers in any way. The one thing I don’t like about this law is that it’s just another example of states looking at legislation instead of education to solve the teen driving problem. If we just taught our new drivers how to drive we wouldn’t need half the laws we have restricting them. But we’ve chosen the legislative route to saving lives and it is just so unfortunate. The roads would be a safer place if all of the proceeds from the sale of these stickers went to in-car drivers training. All fines for all teen driving law infractions should go to this to help stop the problem before it ends in the death of a teen like Kyleigh and a demand for yet another law.

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It’s Teen Safe Driving Week in California

Posted by lapearce on March 22, 2010

I started this week in San Diego, teaching 60 teens how to be safe drivers at a Teens Driving for Life event. It was a great that was sponsored by San Diego Supervisor Bill Horn, San Diego Sheriff, CHP and orchastrated by my nonprofit, Driving Concepts Foundation. I sat down with one of the Sheriff officers during the day and asked him what he thought of the event. He said it was great and, “ever teen should be required to take a course like this”. That was great to hear coming from someone like a police officer. He wasn’t the only one with that opinion either. The parents were extraodinarily greatful for what their children learned and the teens left with capable and confident in their skills.

It was a great way to start off Teen Safe Driving Week.

Teen Safe Driving Week is an awareness campaign that was started by Impact Teen Driving and made possible by Senator Alan Lowenthal and Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani.

“It is crucial that we educate teens and empower them to promote the safe driving message in order to have a fundamental and sustained behavior shift,” said Dr. Kelly Browning, executive director of Impact Teen Drivers. “This isn’t about bad kids doing bad things, but good kids making poor choices. One poor choice can alter or end their lives and the lives of those they care about.”

The organization’s idea of educating and empowering teens is with peer-to-peer education, which has shown to have a significant impact on teen drivers. It is asking teens to develop messages to promote safe driving among their peers. The event is also launching a contest to develop software that turns phones off while driving when the driver enters *65, for *65 to stay alive. Get it, it rhymes.

]I hope there is a driving component to next year’s event. It is great to talk to people about the problem and to get teens involved to talk to each other about the problem, but talking doesn’t help when a car is out of control. Driving skills and car control is what can bring an out of control car back in control safely. Speed management, space management, being aware of what is happening around you and being able to recognize dangers can help prevent that car from going out of control in the first place.

Dr. Browning is right, this isn’t about bad kids doing bad things, but about good kids making poor choices. We need to show them how to make the right decisions by getting in the car with them and showing them what to do in a safe, controlled environment.

Hopefully Senator Lowenthal or Assemblymember Galgiani will agree with me. Heck, Driving Concepts Foundation will even put on the event 🙂

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The driver’s error factor to Toyota’s acceleration problem

Posted by lapearce on March 9, 2010

This Prius driver called 911 when his car accelerated up to 90mph, a police officer yelled at him to hit the brakes before stopping the car with his bumper

No one wants to be behind the wheel of a runaway car that accelerates on its own. Toyota’s brand is going to be damaged for years to come by this problem and their response to it. But there is an even bigger problem here than sticky accelerators: the drivers who lack the common sense to stop the cars themselves.

To clear the air on the point I’m trying to make: cars shouldn’t accelerate on their own. This problem shouldn’t exist in the first place and it is inexcusable that Toyota allowed so many cars to be made with this problem. But that doesn’t excuse the absolutely clueless drivers who can’t figure out how to put a car in neutral or slam on the brakes. The problem isn’t just with a worn pedal or a misplaced floor mats, it’s with how we are training our drivers and the amount of skills the average driver possesses.

As drivers we are becoming increasingly dependent on our cars to do things for us. We have anti-lock brakes to keep our brakes from locking up. Traction control to keep us from spinning out. Lane departure warnings to tell us when we are leaving our lane. Blind spot indicators to tell us when a car is next to us. Tire pressure monitors that tell us when our tires need air. Automatic transmissions that shift themselves and cruise control that lets the engine accelerate on its own. Plus hundreds of other little computers doing tasks that humans used to do. Not all technology is bad, ABS for example is great, but many of these features are dumbing down the driving population and leading to a generation of drivers who can’t even find neutral on a gear selector.

Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Institution is thinking about solving the problem by adding in yet another computer to do the job for us. The agency is considering mandating that all new cars have an override system where when you hit the brakes it overrides the gas. This technology will be the fatal shot to the already dying manual transmission. Goodbye downshifting, good bye fun, goodbye the last standout of drivers’ input in a world of cars that do everything for you. It is ridiculous and unnecessary too because hitting the brakes in a runaway Toyota will already stop the car.

We need to step up as a society and not just demand Toyota make safer cars, but demand that drivers be given the education they need to solve these problems without the addition of new nanny systems and government oversight. We need to raise voices in concern about all of the electronics that are in control of cars today and ask how necessary they are. Do they really help or are they hurting us by giving us an illusion of safety and reducing our skills to take control when the systems give it up?

No one should have died because of Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem. Everyone should have been able to put the car into neutral and hit the brakes. And if Toyota has some computer that doesn’t allow the driver of the car to do that—then that’s another problem all together.

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New teen driving safety equiptment is born from tragedy

Posted by lapearce on March 6, 2010

Rianna had only been driving for three weeks when she was killed in a crash

I’ve always felt that the best way to remember and honor the dead is to do what you can to ensure what happened to them doesn’t happen to anyone else. That is why after my 16-year-old neighbor Rianna Woosely died in 2005 in a car crash that was a result of too much speed and too little experience, I started teaching teens how to drive. I felt that if I could prevent one death, if I could save one family, school, neighborhood from that experience, than I would be doing a justice to Rianna’s memory.

I was not the only one touched by Rianna’s death. Rianna was driving too fast that night because she was following her boyfriend in his pickup truck. He did not crash, but she did. His father, Todd Follmer,  was haunted by that fact. About a month after the crash Todd was given the opportunity to work for a company that created crash data recorders for NASCAR and other industries when he had an epiphany, “Why not record the data before the crash?”

Enter Tiwi, a portable navigation-sized box that sits on the dashboards of cars. It hooks into the car’s dataport (standard after 1996) and records when the driver drives recklessly, doesn’t use his/her seatbelt, or leaves a predetermined zone.  It also has the posted speed limits for all streets plugged in and can alert the driver to speeding after 1, 5 or 10 mph over the limit. Break a rule, the little box tells you– and your parents– that you aren’t being a safe driver. After the drive the Tiwi gives you a grade for how you did.

The device costs $300 and $30 a month for the software & GPS that keeps it going.The next generation of Tiwi hopes to be able to tell when the driver is on his/her phone or texting too.

With other devices like this there are teens, and even parents, who feel it is an invasion of privacy and very big brother. If spying could save the life of your child than spy away. Where I feel there needs to be criticism of devices like this is in the fact that suppressing the problem isn’t the same as solving it. The problem is that we don’t give our teens enough driving experience to be able to make the right decisions on their own, making us dependent on little boxes that chide them for doing something wrong.

Our drivers training in this country is focused on the rules of the road, not how to drive. Most of us become experienced in crash avoidance when we avoid a crash– or when we don’t, in which case the learning experience could be deadly. It is best to put the kids in their cars on a closed course and teach them where their limits are and what their cars are capable when the only things they can hit are soft, rubber cones– not other cars or trees. If you teach them how to get out of emergencies before the emergencies happen you give them a chance. A message on your phone telling you that your child is driving recklessly may help them not drive recklessly next time, but it won’t save them if they lose control around the next bend.

I don’t want to downplay the potential life-saving good that Tiwi and similar products can do, but it has to be part of a rounded approach to driver’s training. Send your child to a defensive driving course or car control clinic– they cost as much as Tiwi and don’t come with monthly payments, set up a teen and parent driving contract where you outline what is and isn’t allowed and the punishments for breaking rules, then, once you have this foundation in place, monitor their driving.

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When you buy golf clubs you get golf lessons, right?

Posted by lapearce on March 4, 2010

Whether you are learning how to drive a ball or drive a car, lessons are important

I was talking to my friend tonight Jim tonight about getting some grants for the teen driving program I volunteer for, Driving Concepts Foundation. Jim is the executive director for another non profit I help out, Trails4All that builds and maintains trails in Southern California. As I was telling him about the program he told me how great it sounded and that he would love to help us try to find grants to keep the program going.

Jim was a race mechanic for many years and spent a good portion of his adult life around race cars and Baja 500 trucks. But he never drove one of these cars, so a few years ago he decided to take a driving school to improve his skills. He was telling me how beneficial the program was and how much he believes in car control courses for all drivers– especially new ones. He made a really good point, a point made to him by his instructor:

When you go out and buy a pair of golf clubs, what is the first thing you do? You get lessons. When you buy a tennis racquet to get tennis lessons. So why do we buy our teens new cars and not get them driving lessons?

To the parents who have children in sports think about the amount of time they spend at practice. We have our kids spend hours every week learning how to throw or catch a ball for a sport that they play on the weekend. Driving is something they will do every day of their lives, and unlike soccer, can lead to death if they aren’t well prepared for it. If you can afford to purchase a car for your child, to pay for the DMV “training”, to insure the car, buy tires for the car, maintain the car then you can afford a car control course for your new driver. These classes teach valuable skills that can make all the difference in an emergency. So instead of automatically thinking “I can’t afford to send my teen to a driving school” instead think “Can I afford NOT to?”

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