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 ‘driving school’ Category

Connecticut parents appreciate more education

Posted by lapearce on January 28, 2010

After a series of deadly crashes in 2007, Connecticut decided to ramp up its teen driving education and laws to help prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. The state began to require teens take eight-hours of instruction, added new graduated drivers license laws and became one of the first states to require parents take instruction as well.

The mandatory two-hour class is designed to help parents help their children learn how to drive. The course goes over driving laws, penalties, distractions and other topics (however, it doesn’t look like pointers on how to teach your child how to drive is part of the curriculum). A survey of parents who took part in the program by Preusser Research Group found that parents overwhelmingly supported the class and felt that they learned something.

85% of parents said the class gave them new information and most agreed that it changed the way they taught their teens. The parents were more likely to enforce laws and spend more time in the car with their teens than before taking the class. This is a huge benefit to the new drivers, since there is a direct correlation to parental involvement and crash reduction.

I hope that other states look at Connecticut’s success with their new program and begin to implement similar programs in their own states. Instruction and getting parents involved are both keys to stopping the teen driving epidemic.


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Teen accidently kills father during driving lesson

Posted by lapearce on August 20, 2009

Crash caused by a permited driver in a 500hp SUV. She confused the gas with the brake and panicked. Luckily, no one was hurt.

Crash caused by a permitted driver in a Corvette-powered SUV. She confused the gas with the brake and panicked. Luckily, no one was hurt.

This is a tragic situation that occurs from time to time. 13 year old boy begs father to teach him how to drive the family’s car. While trying to teach his son how to park, the boy loses control and accidentally runs over his father, killing him.

The boy is reportedly tramatized by the crash, who could blame him?

The scars left from this incident will never heal. The boy who was so eager to drive will most likely lose that drive, and the family will never get back their father. Crashes like this one can be avoided, though, and the father unfortunately stacked the cards against himself and his son while starting the lesson by trying to do too much (parking) too soon (13) with too much car (a 380-550hp [depending on trim] Porsche SUV). Make sure you don’t make similar mistakes while you teach your child to drive, it could be the difference between life and death.

Crashes like this happen more than you may think. A few months ago I taught an 18 year-old girl how to drive. She was absolutely terrified to be behind the wheel. I finally coaxed the reason for her fear from her. She ran over her mother when she was 15, the first time behind the wheel. Like the father in the above story, her mother made the mistake of being out of the car while trying to teach her how to drive. She was showing her the pedals while standing outside the door and told her to hit the gas (I’m assuming she thought the car was in park). The girl floored it, running over mom and braking her leg. The girl was so traumatized that it took four years for her to get back behind the wheel of a car.

My dad too had a similar experience when learning how to drive. His mother got out of the car to help him park. He accidently hit the gas and knocked his mom to the ground. Luckily, she wasn’t seriously hurt.

There are some parallels in all above stories, these are mistakes parents can learn from to keep themselves, and their teens safe when teaching them how to drive.

  1. Stay in the car! Your child should not be operating a vehicle if you are not in it. It is illegal and dangerous. They are unfamiliar with the controls and the dimensions of the car. If you are outside of the car you are automatically a target for them. You also lack the ability to instruct them or grab the controls in case they make a mistake.
  2. Start in a large, empty place. The fewer things for them to hit the less likely they’ll be involved in a crash, and the lower the stress level on them. I highly recommend college parking lots on weekends, or a similar large venue on an off day. This gives them room to make mistakes and learn from them the easy way, instead of hitting walls or people.
  3. Work on the easy stuff first. You don’t teach your child to run before they crawl, so don’t work on difficult aspects of driving (like parking) before working on the fundamentals. The first items you need to go over are the controls of the car. Teach your child where everything is. The female student I had couldn’t figure out how to get the car in reverse after hitting mom because she wasn’t shown where reverse was. (For this part of the lesson teach with the car off, to be extra safe.)
  4. Move up in the lessons slowly. After you show them where all the controls are drive around slowly, working on pedal modulation, steering, and visual skills.
  5. Know how to pull the plug. Where is the emergency brake on the car they are learning in? Is it a hand brake or a foot brake? Hand brakes are better when teaching your child because you can reach over and grab it to stop in an emergency. If you have a foot brake be prepared to put the car in neutral and grab the wheel. Make sure you can take control if your child loses it.
  6. Expect the unexpected. Sometimes teens hit the wrong pedal. They get scared and the freeze. This causes a lot of crashes in the early days of driving. Never think that just because your new driver seems to be getting the hang of it that they can’t make this mistake. It happens sometimes to people who have been driving for years.
  7. Make sure the car they are learning in is appropriate. Large cars, powerful cars, and cars that are just generally difficult to drive aren’t good to learn in. Cars with a lot of power typically have touchy brakes and throttle operation. This can frighten new drivers and cause them to panic and crash. Large vehicles are difficult to control and stop, leading to a higher likelihood of a crash. The worst thing you can use to teach your child how to drive in, in my opinion, is a large, powerful SUV. If that is all that is available for you consider renting a car. If that is the car your child will be driving re-evaluate your choice. Safety is number 1 and you want to give them the best chance they have to not be involved in a crash.

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How much behind the wheel training is enough for new drivers?

Posted by lapearce on July 24, 2009

In the United States we have varying requirements for behind the wheel training for new drivers. Some states require 25, others 30, but the best states require 50. These requirements all pale in comparison to Australia’s mandated 120 hours of behind the wheel training. However, Barrie Sinclair, professional driver and driving instructor, argues that it isn’t nearly enough time for drivers to become confident behind the wheel.

I have heard it say that it takes five years before someone becomes an average driver. Not Mario Andredi, just a good enough driver as the rest of the bad drivers out there. Five years. So Mr. Sinclair has a great point that 120 hours, or five days, of experience, is not nearly enough to equipt teens with the knowledge they need to be safe on the road.

One of the biggest problems, he finds, is that many teens don’t drive the 120 hours that are required. A survey of 1300 Australian teens found that 40 percent lied, or knew someone who lied, about their hours. Sound familiar mom and dad? We do it here too for a third of the hours.

The other problem, says Sinclair, is inexperience.

“They tend to think that they are bullet-proof and 10-feet tall… Virtually all of them come to see me when they are nearing the end of their 120 hours and tell me they are going for their license in three weeks and that they will get it. I don’t think they are ready but then they go for their test and they get given a license.”…

“As soon as they get their license they take off on a trip to Sydney or down the coast… They have not had any life experience outside of their 120 hours, which is nothing. It’s scary and it needs to be addressed.”

Mr. Sinclair thinks the problem needs to be addressed with more education and yes, more training. He wants driver education to be in high school cirriculum and required time in the car with a driving instructor, which Australia currently doesn’t have a law on. He thinks that boiling down education to a piddly 120 hours of in-car training has killed driver’s education in Australia.

More education comes at a cost. I feel that is one of the biggest reasons why more education isn’t required in the United States, Australia or many other countries where the love for the road and the mindset that driving is a right and not a privilage, overshadows the want to create good, safe drivers. Here in the United States, where the best states require less than half of the drive time Australia requires for permitted drivers, parents complain that driver’s education is too costly.

I would like to remind them that the average cost of a crash in the United States is $19,000 and that car crashes are the cause for nearly 40 percent of teen deaths. Yet they complain about the cost of a class that is less than most insurance deductibles. Talk about having their priorities askew! Until it happens to them it isn’t real. But until it happens to them, they may no longer have a child, or at the very least, be out of pocket thousands of dollars in insurance deductibles and increases. It is far less costly to prevent the crash through proper education, please, refocus your attention on making your child the best driver they can be, and not on your pocket book.

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Study finds teens like to learn the hard way while driving

Posted by lapearce on July 21, 2009

A recent study by the George Institute for International Health out of Australia found that teens often times do not listen to the warnings given to them in driver’s education and instead insist on learning the hard way out on the road. The study found that driver’s education does not encourage teens to drive safely and only the fear of repercussions (i.e. tickets) will force teens to drive safely.

“No one has been able to demonstrate any really good safety benefits in driver education in giving people information about risk.” said Associate Professor Rebecca Ivers.

I agree with Ivers. Yes, I am a driving instructor and I agree with her that driver education does not give people information about risks. That is because it doesn’t, and that is why I do not teach for a DMV approved school, but for a non-profit that focuses on teaching what the risks are, why they exist and what drivers can do to avoid them.

Current DMV drivers education is absolutely worthless in this country. We tell teens what to do and what not to do, but we don’t show them the why. Failing to give proper explanation or illustration for the rules we expect them to follow just encourages them to push the envelope, in my opinion.

I don’t think we can rely on the police to encourage teens to drive safety either. There aren’t enough of them to enforce the laws to make that big of an impact, especially now as budget cuts are hitting every level of government. Teens need to be afraid of their parents as well. Parents NEED to be able to wield control over their teens with clearly laid out rules and punishments for not following them. Here is a great article in the Examiner about one inattentive teen with a lead foot, and parents who would not enforce the rules they set to protect her from herself.

Everyone who is involved in teen driving knows that the current driver’s education isn’t up to par. But at the same time, states that don’t require driver’s ed have more crashes than states that do require it. It obviously has some impact on how new drivers act on the road, but it can have so much more. We need to mandate car control/defensive driving in our driver’s education classes! We need to show teens the risk so that they don’t find it on their own.

Currently Congress is looking to enact STANDUP, a law that would have nation-wide teen driving laws, instead of on a state-by-state basis right now. This law does not have any provision for defensive driving training. Please write the authors of STANDUP and your representatives (link on right hand side) and urge them to look into this as a way to fix our broken driver’s education.

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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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Montana hopes class will reduce teen crash deaths

Posted by lapearce on June 15, 2009

Allstates ranking of deadliest states for new drivers (the darker the color the more dangerous the state)

Allstate's ranking of deadliest states for new drivers (the darker the color the more dangerous the state)

In Allstate’s recent study, Montana scored as one of the most dangerous places for new drivers (43rd place). While nationally, teens make up for 10 percent of drivers and 12 percent of crashes, according to Tooper Scott Waddell of the Montana Highway Patrol, in Montana, teens account for 14 percent of drivers and 28 percent of crashes that are fatal or include serious injury. Allstate ranked Montana lowest both in GDL requirements and seatbelt use among teen drivers.

The Montana Highway Patrol is hoping that its program Alive at 25 will help change these numbers in favor of new drivers. The four hour class is free and includes discussion and videos to help teens understand the risks on the road and give them solutions for handling the dangers of driving.

Montana still needs work if they hope to significantly reduce their teen driving crashes: no permits before 15 1/2, no cellphone use, no teen drivers, and required education for all new drivers, not just those under the age of 15. The MHP has the right idea to start the process, but legislatures need to step in to finish it.

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Recap from yesterday’s class

Posted by lapearce on June 8, 2009

Students Cars all in a Row

Students' Cars all in a Row

We had a small class yesterday. This is becoming the norm in a year where we already had to cancel two classes from lack of enrollment. It’s the economy. This time last year the class was full. It saddens me when parents put their pocketbook before the safety of their children. If a defensive driving class helps a teen avoid one crash it has already paid for itself a number of times over.

Despite the smaller group, it was a good group. The majority of the drivers this month had their permits, and two of the girls had just barely started driving. They didn’t know the fundamentals of turning the steering wheel, using the gas or brake, let alone what the car, or they, were capable of doing.

In our first time down the course with one of the new drivers she started out with the steering wheel turned a bit. She gave it a little bit of gas and the car went off to the side. She just froze with her foot on the gas and her eyes locked straight ahead. I grabbed the steering wheel and told her to brake, then talked her into bringing the car back around. Because we were in a big, empty parking lot with nothing around this common beginner mistake was no problem. If it weren’t for classes like this, however, she could have learned that lesson on a busy road. It frightens me that we send out permitted drivers with no experience out there to learn on the road with everyone else. They need a calm, controlled environment to learn in, not the hectic, uncontrolled road.

At the other end of the spectrum we had a more experienced teen who was at the class to reel in an ego that was out of control behind the wheel. She thought she was God’s gift to driving. This is just as dangerous as the permitted drivers who didn’t know the first thing about steering wheel control. She was still inexperienced, but she thought she was experienced. At the end of the day she said, “With every cone I hit my ego deflated a little”. Good, goal reached.

All of the drivers made huge leaps and bounds of improvement through the course of the day. A girl afraid to hit her brakes learned the importance of ABS. The girl who couldn’t turn her car learned how much to turn the steering wheel based on the turn ahead. And the cocky girl lost her attitude.

Honorable mention also goes to one of our permitted drivers, Matt, who mastered his mom’s GM Yukon with expert skill. He had the highest hill to climb of all of our students because of how difficult his SUV is to drive, but he went into the class with a level head and was stellar at listening to what the car was telling him and not over working the car. Still, seeing such a small boy in such a large vehicle, I can’t help but wonder why parents continue to put their children in these dangerous SUVs. His mom is asking herself that same question as well. Matt may get another car before he turns 16. A smaller, lower, easier to handle one.

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Defensive driving class reduces crashes 63%

Posted by lapearce on June 6, 2009

Teen driver learns car control

Teen driver learns car control

Those of us who teach defensive driving to teens know that the classes save lives and prevent crashes, but so many of the organizations doing research on teen driving focus so much on the effectiveness of graduated driving licenses, that they typically ignore the effectiveness of defensive driving/car control classes.

The benefits of classes over laws, in my opinion, is they don’t take years to be put into place, they don’t rely on enforcement, and you can never take education away from a person.

The Meridian Police Department of Mississippi has seven years of experience teaching defensive driving and car care to teens. The week-long courses are limited to 20 students and focus on teaching teens how to avoid emergencies on the road, as well as basic car care.

Since the course has started, the police department has seen a sixtythree percent reduction in crashes among teen drivers.

For comparison, graduated driver’s licenses reduce crashes by nineteen percent.

These classes work better than laws. There need to be more programs like this available to more teens, this is the best way to save lives!

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People complain about “cheap” driver’s ed costs

Posted by lapearce on June 4, 2009

I’ve spoken to a few people who learned how to drive in Europe and Japan. One such man from Norway explained a driver’s education system that puts ours to shame. the process, first and foremost, takes a lot longer and includes a lot more instruction. Before receiving his license he had to prove that he could drive in snow, ice and rain, drive a manual transmission, drive on the highway and perform basic maintenance tasks. And people complain here about needing to know how to parallel park!

The cost of getting a license in Norway: over $2,000 USD.

And Norway is not the exception of the rule. Countries across Europe require similar skills at similar costs. In Japan there are driving schools set up all over the country where teens can learn in a safe place how to control a car in a number of different situations on closed courses. After they receive their license they are branded as new drivers with a sticker. If you crash into a new driver it is automatically your fault, because you are a professional, and they are just a novice. What a different mindset than we have here in America.

Because of the difference in our requirements, and the mindset Americans have toward driving (we feel entitled to the right to drive, not privileged to receive the responsibility like in so many other countries) I was not surprised to read this article from Massachusetts where families complain about paying $800 for driver’s training, over a thousand less than many European countries.

The costs of getting a license in Massachusetts were increased because the driving training requirements have increased. Teens need 12 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction compared to just six hours prior to 2007. Doubling the time with an instructor has, predictably, doubled the average costs of licensing.

Example of Japanese novice driver sticker

Example of Japanese novice driver sticker

Despite a 1:1 ratio of hours-to-costs in Mass. people are still complaining about these “exhortation” costs. “It’s ridiculous,” said Meaghan Huleatt, 17, a recent driver’s education graduate who will be a senior at Barnstable High School in the fall. “They’re asking for way too much money.”

Tom Furino, who started the non-profit M.V. Drive for Life after losing his son, David, in 2005, is partially responsible for the increase in driver’s training requirements. He also feels, however, that the added costs can be offset by 5 percent surcharge on moving violations that would be used to fund high school driver’s training courses. He believes this could save families at least $100. However, in a time of budget cuts, he is skeptical that his plan will make it through legislation.

Even with the “high” costs of licenses in Mass, people are still getting them. They still want to drive.

Thomas Vitanen, program director at Grand Prix Driving School points out that the added education can pay for itself in insurance savings, which are typically around 10 percent a year. I’d also like to point out that if the increased education saves your child from one crash, it paid for itself in the savings of the insurance deductive, let alone the increase you’d see on your insurance.

However, the increased driver’s education goes a step further than just saving people money on their insurance: it will potentially save lives. I am still left speechless at parents who won’t pay for supplemental driver’s education because it is “too expensive” what is the value of your child’s life? If it saves a life, isn’t the extra cost worth it?

The bottom line is that we need better, more comprehensive driver’s education in America, and that it will come at an extra cost. Driving is not a right. It isn’t something that someone deserves or should just get just because they turn 16. It is a responsibility. It is a privilege. People should be prepared for it. Yes, I understand that increased costs are difficult for a lot of families, and that some people will not be able to afford it. I understand that our pathetic public transportation system would make it difficult for these families to find an alternate solution. I believe that these issues are the reason why America is so far beyond Europe and Japan in driver’s training. Those places have great public transportation, and in Japan especially, driving is not seen as a right.

For the time being, I beg the people of Mass. to realize the benefit to the increased requirements. They pay off and they save lives.

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Teen program in Florida gets funding

Posted by lapearce on June 4, 2009

Not an acutual Levy County Golf Cart

Not an actual Levy County golf cart

This is great to hear about in our current economic state. Living in California, I’m watching everything from State parks to State colleges getting huge cuts in funding, or even closed. I can’t see California doing what Florida’s Levy County is doing right now. Good economy or bad economy, teens need better driver’s training. I applaud the Levy County Sheriff’s Office for stepping up to the plate and offering it.

The Sheriffs of Levy County Florida are offering a no cost Teen Driving Improvement Program to all Levy County students who have, or are about to have, a driver’s license or permit. The program will educate teens on the dangers of aggressive, impared, and distracted driving, and reinforce the benefits of seatbelt use.

Combined, these four issues cause a bulk of teen driving deaths.

The course will consist of classroom instruction with videos and powerpoints, as well as hands on time where the students will drive golf carts through a course where they can “learn first hand the dangers of their choices they make while driving.” I assume this statement means that they will be giving teens distractions and putting them in situations where they will need to react. This is the best way to prove to kids why they need to pay attention. More places need to do this!

A parent waiver is needed due to the graphic nature of some of the images in the presentation.

For more information please contact Lt. Sean Mullins or Sgt. Max Long at 352-486-5111 ext 278.

The schedule of classes are as followed:

Chiefland High School, June 10, 11, 12; July 1, 9, 22, 29, 30; Aug. 12.

Bronson High School, June 23, 24; July 2, 20, 23; Aug. 3, 4, 13.

Cedar Key School: July 6, Aug. 5.

Williston High School, June 8, 9, 15, 30; July 8, 21, 27, 28; Aug. .10, 11.

Yankeetown School, June 29, July 7, Aug. 6.

All classes begin at 9 a.m.

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