Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Archive for the ‘crash’ Category

The victim mentality

Posted by lapearce on October 3, 2010

We are a nation of victims.  It seems like it is always someone’s fault when something happens, there is always someone to blame.  Overweight? Blame Starbucks.  Alcoholic?  Blame mom.  Get in a car crash?  Blame the other person, the government organization that maintains the road, the company that made your car, the mechanic who replaced your brakes, the list can go on and on.

I’ve never liked calling a crash an accident because accident implies a lack of fault.  Yet even though people will call something an accident it won’t stop them from pointing fingers and filing lawsuits against anyone who may have money to pay out.  Recently Hyundai settled a lawsuit that stemmed from a fatal crash killed by a drunk executive, who was then helped out of the country by a fellow Hyundai employee.  In this case there was definitely someone at fault– Youn Bum Lee who chose to drive drunk then chose to flee the crash scene and chose to leave the country.  The company that employed him did not make Lee drive drunk, nor did they instruct the other employee to help him flee.  Many times though, fault isn’t so clearly delineated.

While there may be someone who is at fault for a crash, that doesn’t mean that the “victim” was helpless in avoiding the crash.  Last night I was making a left hand turn around midnight after seeing the movie Wall Street (wait for HBO).  It was a double left turn onto a three-lane road.  I was in the outside lane and another car was on the inside lane.  As a defensive driver, I allowed the other car go a head of me and stayed behind the car as we made the left hand turn.  Thankfully I did this because the distracted, teenage driver who was too busy chatting on her phone to pay attention to what she was doing, chose to turn into the far right lane instead of the inside lane that she was supposed to turn into.  Had I been next to her she would have hit me.  It would have been her fault (hard to prove in a sideswipe for your future reference) but just because it would have been her fault doesn’t mean that I was helpless to avoid the crash.  By driving defensively I kept my car in one piece.

I tell all my teen drivers to always assume the other driver isn’t paying attention and to anticipate their next move.  If the person behind you isn’t paying attention or has a bad habit of stopping late then change lanes and let them get in front of you.  That way if they fail to stop they won’t be crashing into your car.  When you stop in traffic, or at a light, make sure to always leave room in front of you and look for an exit.  If the car behind you doesn’t stop in time you at least have a way to reduce the impact.  And, before you go at a green light check for red light runners.

All of these defensive driving techniques will help you not become a victim.  And if you are involved in a crash don’t be afraid to ask yourself what you could have done to avoid the collision.  It will be a good lesson for the next time you are in a similar situation.


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Is it an accident or a crash? Who is to blame when your teen wrecks a car?

Posted by lapearce on August 25, 2009

Warning sticker about roll over risk, speed, abrupt manouvers and seatbelts in an SUV

Warning sticker about roll over risk, speed, abrupt maneuvers and seatbelts in an SUV

Many people in the auto safety industry refuse to call wrecks accidents. That is because an accident implies that no one was at fault. That everything just happened and the drivers involved could not have stopped the collision no matter what they did. Typically that isn’t the case. Even when vehicle failure causes a crash a lack of maintenance on the driver’s fault is the actual cause. Instead, we call wrecks crashes. It is more accurate as it doesn’t assume that no fault can be assigned.

Now that the word accident is out of your teen driving vocabulary, who is at fault when your teen crashes? Let’s look at the case of Brandon Hodges of Jacksonville Florida. He was driving a Ford Explorer with nine people in it when a tire blew out. He was unable to control the car and it flipped. Only Hodges was wearing a seat belt and four teens were tragically killed in the crash.

The families of Hodges and one of the victims blame the tire manufacturer for the crash. Bobbie Krebs, mother of one of the teens killed said,

“The person to blame is the person that made that tire. … I’m not going to let him [Brandon] take the fall for them.”

But is Brandon taking the fall for the tire company, or is the tire company taking the fall for Brandon? Brandon was fifteen at the time of the crash. He didn’t have a license and was allowed to drive. He was driving a car with more passengers than seat belts (not that it mattered much since no one was using those belts). He was speeding.

But Hodge’s lawyer says none of these things are a factor in the crash, that it is all the fault of Cooper Tire who made the tire. He adds that the case reminds him of the Firestone lawsuit nine years ago. That comment reminds me of a cop out and dollar signs.

A number of Ford Explorers rolled about a decade ago due to defective Firestone tires that suffered from tread

A tire defect PLUS underinflation caused Explorer roll overs

A tire defect PLUS underinflation caused Explorer roll overs

separation when the tire was underinflated.Yes, the tire was defective, but a driver who properly maintained his/her SUV’s tire pressure was immune to the defect. Fact is tires rarely blow out without reason. Typically they are under inflated, over inflated or bald. Sometimes they hit an object in the road causing damage to them. But even in the case of the Firestone roll over scandal owners were also at fault for the crashes they were involved in. They were not accidents, they were crashes. They were avoidable.

“When under inflated, all radial tires generate excessive heat,” Crigger said. “Driving on tires in this condition can lead to tread separation. Maintaining the proper inflation level will enhance the performance and lifespan of these tires.” –Firestone

Even if the tire on Hodge’s girlfriend’s family’s SUV was defective it doesn’t detract from the fact that he was unlicensed and speeding. Just because a blow out happens doesn’t mean a crash is inevitable as well. Proper driver’s training and experience give people the necessary skills to remain control after a blow out. As an unlicnsed driver, these are two things that Hodges definitely did not possess. Would it have been completely avoidable with a licensed driver? No. People panic and they react poorly in emergency situations. Is there a higher probability that the crash would have been avoided with a licensed driver? Yes. 100%.

What message do we send to teens when we blame others for their actions?

Teens all across Florida are learning right now that they aren’t at fault when something goes wrong with their car because of the actions of Hodge’s family and lawyer. Hodges did still break the law, regardless of what other factors went into the crash and he should be held responsible for doing so. In our litigious society where everyone sues everyone for everything we are constantly shifting blame. I think we are breeding a generation of people who will feel that they are not responsible for their actions and fail to own up to them or work to resolve them.

Should parents be held responsible for the actions of their teens?

By holding parents responsible you are shifting the blame away from the teen. Even though that is true, parents can still be held responsible for their teen’s actions and have an effect on what their young drivers do. From a legal perspective you are responsible for what your teen does up until the age of 18. Anything they do wrong behind the wheel can come back to you in the form of one of the lawsuits I mentioned in the last section.

I do believe that some crashes are partially caused by negligent parents. Parents control their teens driving. Parents who do not enforce graduated drivers license rules, or who do not take away the keys when their teen is being dangerous on the road have some responsibility in their teen’s actions. Parents need to remember that teen brains have not fully developed and they do not recognize risk the same way adults do. What is stupid and dangerous to us is fun to them. Parents need to watch over their teen drivers and not be afraid to take away the keys if their young drivers are not being safe.

Of course, Hodge’s family is just trying to keep Brandon out of jail and if that means throwing Cooper Tire under the bus that is what they’ll do to keep their sixteen-year-old out of the big house. I’m sure many parents would lie if it meant keeping their child out of prison. It is hard to blame them for the goal they are trying to achieve, but I criticize them for the methods they are employing.

Posted in advice, crash, law, parents, teen driver | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Teen driver killed while trying to save gas

Posted by lapearce on August 24, 2009

Tailgating semi trucks is a popular hypermiling technique. One false move and you will crash. Is it worth it?

Most hypermilers know that drafting is dangerous. One false move and you will crash. Is it worth it?

Hypermiling: the act of taking extreme measures to save gas. Some of the more extreme measures of this practice are very dangerous, such as “drafting” behind semi trucks, driving 20mph under the speed limit on the highway, or turning the car off while going down hill. All as an attempt to save a couple miles per gallon on the tank of gas.

These practices are dangerous, and for one young man in Australia  hypermiling cost him his life.

The teen turned the car off and took the keys out of the ignition before going through a bend. He had only had his license for a month and didn’t know that when the car is off the ignition is locked. Unable to steer, his car plowed into a semi truck, killing himself and taking off half the face of a passenger. Two other passengers were also injured in this crash.

Coroner Rod Chandler said, “I am satisfied that it occurred in this instance not because the deceased was being foolhardy or irresponsible but rather because of his ignorance of its effect upon his capacity to manage the vehicle.”

There is much more than needs to go into driver’s education than simply how to drive. How many parents think to discuss practical ways to increase fuel economy or what happens when the key is removed from the car with their teens? Hypermiling exists and teens may be influenced by the promise of astronomical high gas mileage, but at what price? Dangerous driving is dangerous driving no matter what your motive. Driving too close to trucks, much slower than traffic, over inflating your tires and turning off the car while it is moving exponentially increase your chance for a crash. If no one is hurt the irony is that the cost of your insurance deductible is probably more than the amount of gas you’d save in a year. If someone is killed because of it, then no amount of fuel saved makes it worth while.

Here are some tips on how to hypermile safely for the best mix of fuel economy and safe driving. Many of these tips (ie slower acceleration and getting ready to stop sooner) are safer too than getting on the gas or braking late, which reduces your ability to move out of the way or stop in an emergency.

Posted in crash, parents, teen, teen driver | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Update: teen driver of crash that killed four charged with nine criminal counts

Posted by lapearce on August 24, 2009

When I originally saw the news back in June about a roll over crash that took the lives of 3 (later 4) teens in Florida I was heart wrenched.  When I learned that the driver responsible for the crash was 15 and unlicensed I was left asking why.

This crash happened during the last day of school. Eight teens crammed into a Ford Explorer to go to the beach for a summer party.  The vehicle sat seven people with the optional third row, five if it did not have this option, and only the driver was wearing his seat belt. A tire blew and the young, unlicensed and inexperienced driver didn’t have the skills necessary to maintain control. The SUV flipped killing Kimber Krebs, 15, John Kiely, 15, Dennis Stout, 17, and Erin Hurst, 15. Four other teens were left in critical condition the family of one, Rebecca Pilkinton, was polite enough to update me on her condition and to mention that she went to another school that started summer break earlier, so she was not ditching. I hope her and the other teens are doing well and are recovering both physically and emotionally from the wreck that took the lives of their friends.

Today that unlicensed driver was charged with four counts of driving without a license involving death; four counts of driving without a license involving serious injury; and one count of careless driving. He faces a long prison sentence if he is convicted.

I don’t even know what to say about crashes like this. They are so tragic but also so avoidable. Even know I’m misting up as I write about these lives that were lost or ruined because of some bad decisions. In my original blog post I mentioned how so much went wrong, I still believe that. What if the teens had been wearing their seat belts? What if the tires were properly maintained and didn’t blow out? What if a licensed teen was driving? What if the kids had stayed in school instead of ditching? I would still like to know how the driver got the keys to the car. Was it a friend’s? Was it his family’s? Did he take it without permission or was he allowed to drive it? If one of these elements had been changed, I wonder if this crash would not have happened.

Parents, have you talked to your kids about seat belt use, passengers and the people they chose to ride with? If you haven’t you need to.

Posted in crash, parents, teen driver | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

38% of teens street race, 97% think it is dangerous.

Posted by lapearce on July 16, 2009

Street racing crash that killed two teens

Street racing crash that killed two teens

Sometimes there are crashes that really stick with us. One of them for me is a street racing crash that happened in 2006. Two 18-year-old boys in fast cars with female passengers were racing at high speed down a city street at night.

The cars crested a hill making the new BMW M3 get light. When the weight settled back down the car went into a spin. It hit a wall on the side of the road with so much speed, that it flipped over and landed 30 feet away. The driver and one of the passengers were killed, the other passenger was badly injured. The driver’s parents were later sued by the surviving girl’s family and the driver of the other car was driving with a suspended license because of five tickets.

Tragedies like this happen all the time. They happen because teens think bad things won’t happen to them. That’s the only way I can explain the disconnect between nearly 100 percent of teens thinking street racing is dangerous, but nearly 40 percent doing it. They think that how they are doing it is safer than anyone else, because of xy&z. But it’s not kids, it’s not.

Movies and video games that glorify street racing is one part of the problem. Street racing deaths increased after the Fast and Furious movies came out. The video game Need For Speed where kids can customize and race their cars against others on the street sold 5.3 million copies last year alone. Another problem is the lack of legal drag strips for teens to use instead of the open road. The biggest cause, however, is a lack of maturity, experience and the inability to recognize risk. Teens are prewired to do things like this. In a lot of ways, they can’t help it.

Street racing has been portrayed as cool in movies for decades

Street racing has been portrayed as cool in movies for decades. Here "Grease Lighting" races in the film Grease.

What is the answer to the problem? I think a lot of it is in communication. Only 57 percent of teens said they would ask the driver to stop if he/she was street racing. Talk to your new drivers about the risks, and tell them if they EVER feel the driver is doing something dangerous to not be afraid to ask them to stop. Being labled a wuss is better than being dead. Not being a passenger of a teen driver is also a good way to reduce the chances of street racing too. A lot of times the new driver is trying to show off to passengers, which is why (I feel) street racing is more likely to happen with passengers.

As for the street racing component, pressing the dangers is important, but I also think it is vital to give teens another outlet. Take them to the drag strip, sign them up for autocrosses. It  gets the speed out of their system. Some people worry that it will make them more likely to be dangerous on the road, but in my experience, it takes away the craving for speed and helps expose the danger of the activities on the open road.

Street racing will never go away. For as long as there have been cars there have been street races. I heard a great old tune the other day called “My Hot Rod Lincoln” written by Charlie Ryan in 1955. The last line is:

They arrested me and they put me in jail

and called my pappy to throw my bail

And he said, “Son, you’re gunna’ drive me to drinkin’

If you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln!”

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Deathly crash may lead to teen driving legislation in New Mexico

Posted by lapearce on July 15, 2009

The teens car after the fatal crash

The teens' car after the fatal crash

It was after midnight on Sunday, June 28 in Santa Fe New Mexico. Five teens were driving to a house party having just left a Sonic restaurant. In the other direction was driving 28-year-old Scott Owens with a blood alcohol level of .16, twice the legal limit. He crossed over the center divider in front of the car full of teens. In an instant four young lives were lost, and the only survivor left in critical condition. As for Owens, as so often happens in these cases, received only minor injuries.

Crashes like this often times lead to public outcry. Instead of outcry over drunk driving, however, in this case, the outcry is for better restrictions on teen drivers. Maybe if New Mexico didn’t allow provisional drivers to have passengers only one teen would have died that night. Maybe if New Mexico didn’t allow provisional drivers to drive after 10 p.m. no lives would have been lost.

Problem with that thinking is: it already is illegal in New Mexico for teen drivers to do these things.

So then why fight for more laws against teens when the problem in this case was a fully licensed adult who was driving drunk? David McGinnis, a driving instructor who lobbied 10 years ago for the graduated drivers liecnse in New Mexico says the problem isn’t the law: it’s the parents. If parents were enforcing the GDL on their teens, perhaps the kids would not have been on the road when Owens went into oncoming traffic. Or, perhaps they did have strict rules that were being broken at the time, we don’t know.

Lawmakers are considering putting stickers on teens cars to show they have provisional licenses or increase the restriction time until the drivers are 18. The only way these provisions would have prevented this crash would have been if the teens were pulled over by a police officer who saw the sticker and noticed that the teens were breaking curfew and passenger laws.

New Mexico already has very comprehensive drunk driving laws. The state was the first in the nation to require ignition interlock for all convicted drunk drivers. The system does not allow the car to start if the driver has been drinking. There isn’t much room for improvement on drunk driving legislation in New Mexico, which is perhaps why this crash is being used as a cry for better teen driving laws, instead of better drunk driving laws.

It is true that if GDL laws were being followed this crash would not have happened. However, if Owens had not been drinking and driving, the crash would not have happened either. He’s the one at fault here and he’s the one who should be, and will be, punished for what happened. Four lives were lost because of bad decisions that were made, but putting stickers on cars will not bring those lives back. McGinnis is right, the answer is to enforce the laws that already exist before putting more restrictions on new drivers that run the risk of not being followed. That is the best way to honor the lives lost on June 28.

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Girl assulted after car crash

Posted by lapearce on June 16, 2009

We hope that we, and our loved ones, are never involved in a car crash. Dispite our best wishes, however, crashes happen every day. A lot of new drivers don’t know what to do when they are involved in a crash and can make mistakes: mistakes that can lead to them to being victims of insurance fraud, or even worse. The smart thinking of one 17-year-old driver meant that she was able to escape a horrific post-crash experience without harm.

The girl was driving in Boynton Florida when she hit a grey van in front of her. After the cars pulled to the side of the road, the man that the girl hit wanted her to give him money for the damage and asked her to ride with him to an ATM. She smartly refused the ride and said she would follow him. After her refusal, however, the man cornered her and groped the teen. She screamed, causing the man to jump in his van and drive away. Her level-headedness and refusal to get in the van with the man could have saved her life, and at the very least saved her from being rape.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about what to do in a crash. It is something that parents need to discuss with their teens to protect them if they are involved in a crash. A collegue of mine at Driving Concepts is in the insurance industry and teaches families on what to do in case of a collision. Here are some tips he gives:

  • Make sure the cars are in a safe place before stepping out of the vehicle
  • If the other driver is irate don’t get out of your car
  • Call the police for any crash
  • Take photos of your car and the other car in case they try to pull something funny on you later (it happens)
  • Try to find witnesses
  • When exchanging information get: the other driver’s full name, their driver’s license number, the name, phone number and address for the insurance company, and information about what car they are driving. You do not need to give them your address of phone number, nor should you, in case of situations like the one above.
  • Do not discuss the crash at the scene, last thing you need is tempers flaring at the side of the road
  • If you are stopped on the side of the road or the freeway, do NOT stand between the two cars to inspect damage! It only takes one other driver who isn’t paying attention to hit the back car and send it into you, pinning you between the two cars.

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Half of local road’s fatalities were 18 or younger

Posted by lapearce on June 12, 2009

Memorial for Ryan Case on Live Oak Canyon Rd. He was 18 when he over corrected and struck a tree.

Memorial for Ryan Case, 18, on Live Oak Canyon Rd. He over corrected and struck a tree.

I’m a car nut. I’m very active on a large BMW forum where the average member is an 18 year old male, per our demographics. Recently, a thread titled “post your crashes” brought something very illuminating to light:

A lot of these teen boys crash on canyon roads (or twisties). Here are some of the explanations given:

“Lost it in some twisties and went off the road into a ditch.”

“Tackling some twisties, lost it on a gravel patch, collected a CLS350 heading the opposite direction. Wrote off both cars”

“On one of the local twisties here, there is a small chicane section over a bridge that you can hit close to the top of 3rd gear. I went into the chicane at 75 mph, tapped the throttle over the bridge while transitioning right and the back end kicked out. I over correct and lodged the rear right tire right between the cement and slammed the back end into a telephone pole.”

I, like many other, weren’t shocked to hear that this 3 1/2 mile road, that has been the place of 12 deaths in the past 10, years, kills more teens than it does adults. Only two of those 12 deaths have been to people over the age of 25, and most of them have been to teens.

I have an unique point of view on this, as both a drivign instructor, and a person who grew up near this road. When I was a teen we would go down there and drive the canyon. Looking back now, we did really stupid stuff. Obviously, this past time hasn’t changed. Kids like to drive, and they like to think that they are good drivers. I thought I was God’s gift to driving when I was 16, that I was such a better driver than everyone else on the road. Man was I wrong. Luckily, I got to learn through experience, not tragedy.

Unfortunately, not as many people are as lucky as I was.

Of the 189 fatal and injury crashes that have occurred on Live Oak Canyon Road since 1999, excessive speed has been found to be the leading cause of the crash in 32 percent of the cases. Unsafe movement is believed to be the leading cause in 39 percent of the cases.But the two causes are connected and excessive speed is often what causes the driver to make an unsafe movement of the vehicle, Goodwin said. Add inexperience to the equation, and you have a driver that may overcorrect when his or her car swerves at high speeds.

“Speed leads to an unsafe lane movement,” Goodwin said. “They’re losing control of the vehicle and overcompensate.”

Residents and officials are trying to find ways now to make the road safer for drivers (i.e. make it unfun for teens to go racing through). I still live by this road, and I still like driving this road. It seems like to protect the teens they may be forced to punish the masses, however. I just wish we taught these kids they weren’t invincible so that mitigation measures like these weren’t needed.

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No bail for teen held for reckless driving

Posted by lapearce on June 10, 2009

Teeters vehicle after crash that paralized her passanger

Teeters' vehicle after crash that paralyzed her passenger

Wow! I’ve worried in the past about the lack of enforcement of graduated driver’s license laws, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in Georgia, where 16-year-old Ashley Teeters was denied bond on reckless driving and license violation charges for a crash that left another teen paralyzed.

Teeters, who under Georgia law was not supposed to have teenage passengers, was going an estimated 90 mph on a surface street when she failed to navigate a turn and rolled her car several times. Both herself and a passenger in the front seat, miraculously, suffered only minor injuries. 16-year-old Tyler Epps, who was in the back, however, was left paralized from the May 23 wreck and is still in the hospitol.

None of the teens were wearing their seatbelts.

Teeters is also facing shoplifting and assult charges from other incidents.

It is an absolute miracle that all three teens weren’t killed in this horrific crash. Teeters is learning the hard way how important it is to follow the, often strict, restricted license for new drivers. Parents, show this article to your teens! Show them what the consequences may be if they decide to violate the provisions of their graduated drivers license! As for Tyler Epps, it’s such a shame that his life was destroyed by so many careless decisions by this young woman.

Posted in crash, Graduated Driver's Licenses, law | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Texas close to getting tougher driver’s training

Posted by lapearce on June 10, 2009

Shelby Johnson would have graduated from high school last Saturday, but instead, she didn’t have a chance to make the walk, to receive her diploma, or to throw her cap in the air. She was killed two years ago on her way to school. Her last words were: “Bye daddy… I love you”. Now, if that doesn’t make you want to cry, I don’t know what will.

In honor of his daughter’s death, Phil Johnson campaigned to improve the driving laws in Texas with the “No tears more years” initiative. The bill increases drivers training from 14 hours to 34 (still below the recommended 50) and includes 10 hours of nighttime training, when most accidents happen, as well as bans cell phones.

The bill, designed by Pottsboro police Chief Brett Arterburn, State Representative Larry Phillips and Phil Johnson, has already passed the House and Senate and just waits for the Governor to sign it in as law. “The bill is not to punish a teen or make it harder for a teen to get a driver’s license. The sole intent of the bill is to save lives,” said Chief Arterburn. If the bill becomes law, Arterburn expects it to go into effect on September 1st, just after the 100 deadliest days for new drivers.

Johnson, who also has a 13 year-old-son,  feels increased education is necessary to help ensure what happened to Shelby doesn’t happen to other teens, like his son Ryan. Like many parents who lose an older child in a crash, he struggles with the concept of letting his younger child drive. “Am I going to let him in a car? I don’t know. I guess I can’t answer that right now. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it… I think I would feel differently once the training is there and once he has been trained to get behind the wheel of a car.”

So Governor Perry: the ball is in your court. What are you going to do with it?

Posted in crash, Graduated Driver's Licenses, law | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »