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 ‘Graduated Driver's Licenses’ Category

An open letter to the lawmakers of Nebraska in regards to teen driving laws

Posted by lapearce on February 7, 2010

Recently Nebraska introduced LB831 which would allow some fourteen-year-olds to drive to school. I am adamantly against allowing children this young to drive because of the inherent dangers. The argument for the bill is that it will save parents time. The argument against the bill is that it will cost young drivers their lives. This is the letter I have just sent to Sentator Utter, who introduced the bill, and the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. If you agree that it is dangerous to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive please send them a letter too.

Email addresses:

dutter@leg.ne.gov; fischer@leg.ne.gov; kcampbell@leg.ne.gov; tgay@leg.ne.gov; ghadley@leg.ne.gov; cjanssen@leg.ne.gov; slautenbaugh@leg.ne.gov; llouden@leg.ne.gov; astuthman@leg.ne.gov

Dear Senator Utter,

My name is Lauren Pearce, I am a teen driving instructor out of California and I am writing to urge you not to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive in your state. In the article I read on the bill you have proposed you mentioned that there hasn’t been much opposition to your bill other than “safety concerns raised about having more young drivers on the road.” I am here to offer some more reasons against letting children this young out on the road the most important one being saving the lives of young Nebraskans.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America. Each year over 5,000 teens lose their lives in accidents; more than murder, suicide or drugs. Yet, for some reason, most people in the United States are completely unaware of this fact. For example, last year 4,000 Americans died of swine flu compared to 5,000 teens in car crashes, but which epidemic received more coverage? The sad thing is: teen driving deaths are just as avoidable as flu deaths if lawmakers, state DMVs and parents were to become aware of the problem and the solution that is out there.

The younger a teen driver is the more likely they are to be killed while driving. Teens who drive at fourteen are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sixteen-year-old. Sixteen-year-olds in turn are more likely to crash than seventeen-year-olds, who are more likely to crash than eighteen-year-olds. The chances of being involved in a crash steadily decreases with age as drivers gain maturity. If you compare a crash risk of a sixteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old who have both been driving for the same amount of time, the eighteen-year-old will be safer and less likely to crash because of their increased maturity over the sixteen-year-old. To let fourteen-year-olds out on the road knowingly with the maturity level they possess isn’t just a safety concern for other drivers: it is murder.

I have a fifteen-year-old sister. I am very aware of the maturity level of children this age. My sister is a good student; she is mature for her age and has friends that are beyond her in years. But I would not hand her the keys to a 2-ton vehicle capable of triple digit speeds and say “go drive to school”. Because I love my sister and I want her to make it to sixteen.

Parents who allow teens as young as fifteen and fourteen to drive do so because they are unaware of the risks associated with letting teens of this age out on the road. I’m aware that Nebraska is a rural state and that many children have long distances to travel to school. So what’s next? Do we allow eight-year-olds to drive to save parents the hardship of driving them to elementary school? It parents can drive thirteen-year-olds to school why can’t they also drive fourteen-year-olds?

I grew up in a rural community far from the local high school. I woke up at 5:00AM very morning to get on the 6’o-clock bus to school. The bus would finally reach campus an hour and a half later. Every afternoon I did the same trip in reverse and typically didn’t get home until about 4:00PM even though class was out around 2:00. I did this day in and day out without any other options because in California you cannot drive until you are sixteen. Never did I or my parents consider attempting to change the law just to make it more convenient for us.  We endured like everyone else. I do not see how this should be any different in another state.

I cannot muster even an ounce of sympathy for the parents who want this law, because they are unaware of the potential harm they are bringing to their children. Setting up a carpool or taking your child to school is a far better alternative than having your flesh and blood killed in a car crash because they lack the experience and knowledge to operate a motor vehicle. Is that really worth the time saved for a parents?

I’m not sure if you are aware, but last month a third party organization, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, released its yearly review of states’ teen driving laws. Nebraska was dead last on the list with only 6.5 teen driving laws. In comparison the leader, the District of Columbia, has 13.5 laws.  DC also has a lot less teen fatalities than rural states like Nebraska, one of the reasons being the increased driving laws. Instead of attempting to improve your state’s standing and moving up this list, your law will only save Nebraska’s spot as the worst state for teen drivers for next year. It will cost the lives of teenagers as well as other motorists and make your state more dangerous and more deadly.

Laws alone cannot save lives. What we need is better driver’s education and parental involvement. Defensive driving courses where teens are put behind the wheel of real cars on a closed course are the best way to save lives. At these classes teens are taught maneuvers that will help them avoid crashes and also become aware of their limits as drivers and the limits of their vehicles. It is so much safer for a teen to learn his/her abilities when the only item he/she can hit is a cone, not a tree or another car. The benefits of programs that teach these skills in this way have been confirmed by AAA and other organizations; it’s unfortunate that more lawmakers aren’t aware of the benefits of defensive driving classes.

Parental involvement also reduces crashes significantly. Connecticut has had a lot of success with its new mandated two-hour education class for parents. I suggest that Nebraska also bring parents into the education process and help them understand the risks and challenges of new drivers and how they can help protect their teen through involvement.

Teen car crashes cost states millions of dollars each year. Better education, laws and parental involvement will save money as well as lives. Please, before you allow more young drivers on the road educate yourself to the dangers it will bring to them and other drivers and decide of the ends really justify the means in this case: http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Teen_Drivers/index.html

Thank you for your consideration,

Lauren Pearce

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

New Pennsylvania driving laws will fund driver’s education

Posted by lapearce on February 1, 2010

Chairman of the House Transportation Committee in Pennsylvania, Rep. Joseph Markosek, knows that it takes more than laws to get people to change how they drive, “People have a responsibility when operating a 4,000-pound battering ram… We can only legislate up to a certain point.” Few truer words have ever been spoken by a member of government on driving.

This if new driving laws are passed 75 percent of the revenue from tickets issued for breaking the laws will go directly to distracted driving education. I wish the funds would go into driving education instead of just distracted driving education, which only focuses on a small part of the driving problem and doesn’t do anything to teach people how to drive, but with the insanity of driving laws and the poor standards of education that exist in this country anything is an improvement.

The bill that has been passed by the House but still awaits passage by Senate, would make talking on the phone while driving a primary offense for all drivers, meaning a police officer could pull you over if you are on the phone but not breaking any other laws.  Not wearing a seat belt will also be a primary offense for teen drivers and new drivers will be required to have 65 hours of in car practice before they get their license instead of 50 hours (so a lot more kids will be forging their driving logs).

The legislation still needs to be merged with Senate legislation then approved by the governor. It’s a good step in the right direction even if it is a small one. Pennsylvania would get more bang-for-its buck if it stepped up driver’s ed to focus more on driving skills and defensive driving instead of focusing on short-sighted campaigns that only talk about the dangers of cellphones and maybe have participates do a quick driving course with a phone attached to their ear.

Posted in Graduated Driver's Licenses, law | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Nebraska blantently ignores safe driving recommendations

Posted by lapearce on January 27, 2010

Earlier this month Nebraska was named the worst state in the union for new drivers due to its pathetically lacking laws and enforcement of the recommended graduated drivers license requirements. You would think after being named the worst state in the nation for new drivers that Nebraska would try to increase its enforcement of new drivers to try and safe lives, but instead, the exact opposite is happening: Nebraska legislatures are trying to allow 14-year-olds to drive.

Now, I apologize for all the poor busy Nebraska parents who are simply too busy to shuttle their brood to school events, but I can’t be sympathetic. Form a carpool for Christ’s sake, have your kids walk, but to put the lives of your children and other Nebraska drivers at risk because you don’t like to drive your child around is a pretty sad and pathetic excuse, especially since parents in practically every other state seem to do it just fine without their 14-year-olds operating a 2-ton piece of machinery capable of over 100mph.

The new law would allow 14-year-old students living a mile and a half from school (i.e. biking distance) to drive to school functions. This privilege is already extended to rural students who likely don’t have the offerings of a bus route, or parents willing to put their child’s safety over their own schedules.

Senator Dennis Utter says that despite the fact that the younger the teen is the more likely they are to crash, and despite the fact that it is recommended that children don’t get their permits until they are sixteen, there isn’t much opposition to the bill just safety concerns raised about having more young drivers on the road.

Nebraska, get your head out of the sand and look around. You can’t drop lower than the worst state for driving laws, but you seem to be making every attempt to rank #51 next year.

Posted in Graduated Driver's Licenses, law, parents, teen driver | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

GHSA to honor teen driving safety advocates and programs

Posted by lapearce on August 31, 2009

The Governors Traffic Safety Association (GTSA) is having its annual conference on Wednesday in Georgia. As part of the event awards will be given to top teen safety advocates in the nation.

Winning top honors will be Senator John J. Cullerton of Illinois. Sen. Cullerton has spent 30 years advocating for automobile safety and has helped enact seat belt laws, DUI laws and graduated drivers license laws. The Illinois Operation Teen Safe Driving Program (which Ford Driving Skills for Life and Allstate are partners) and the New Jersey Teen Driver Study Commission will also win awards for their efforts to save teen lives.

Congratulations to the winners of all of the GHSA’s awards and thank you for working to make the roads a safer place.

Posted in Graduated Driver's Licenses, parents, teen driver | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Texas: new teen driving laws take effect Sept. 1

Posted by lapearce on August 23, 2009

Texas has received low ratings on its teen driving laws in the past, but dispite this, the state has very safe drivers due in part to an extensive peer-to-peer program. Texas wants to help the chances of its young drivers even more by adding more restrictions on their driving during the first years they are on the road.

Effective next week Texas teens will be required to take a driving test before receiving their license. This is the norm in most other states. Restricted license time will also increase from the first six months to a year. Under the restricted license teens cannot drive at night, talk on the cell phone or have multiple passengers. Behind the wheel requirements will also increase from 14 hours to 32.

All of the new restrictions that Texas is implementing fall below the recomendations by the NHTSA and the average of most states. For example, in California the restricted license lasts for two years or until the teen is 18 and teens are required to receive 50 hours behind the wheel.

Here’s the question: if Texas teens are already among the nation’s safest with the state’s poor GDL requirements, what does that say about GDL? Is Texas a case study for why these laws aren’ the most effective way to save lives? Or, do we need to err on the side of caution and do what ever is neccessary to reduce crashes?I only worry that we’ll see GDL as a cop out and won’t look at other options becuasae we feel like we are already doing all that we can to solve the problem while we aren’t.

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Texas has nation’s safest teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on July 28, 2009

The fatal crash rate in Texas decreased nearly 33 percent last year, more than double the national average. Texas has graduated driving laws, however 33 states are rated as having better GLD requirements than Texas. Also, states with similar laws did not have the same drop off in deaths as Texas did. So what is Texas’s secret? According to the Texas Transportation Institute the difference is peer programs.

These peer influence programs encourage positive peer pressure among teens. The program, “Teens in the Driver Seat” help teens teach each other about high-risk driving situations such as: night driving, drinking and driving, speeding and cell phone use.

250,000 Texas Teens have gone through the program, which motivates teens to become an active part of the solution by offering incentives to develop their own messages about safe driving. The full program currently costs Texas $1 million to run. The state has most likely saved far more than that from the reduced number of crashes.

Why do peer programs work? Alberto Torres, 17 says it well:

“Teenagers don’t always listen to adults… but we do listen to each other.”

It makes complete sense. One of the main reasons why passenger use is looked down upon for teen drivers is because of the possibility of negative peer pressure causing teens to engage in dangerous activities, such as speeding and not wearing their seat belts. If teens can have this negative impact on each other, why can’t they also have a positive impact. If it is cool to wear your seat belt or drive safety teens can be pressured into doing these things.

People who argue for the need of graduated drivers license will need to reassess their feelings after seeing what Texas has done. Texas has some of the weakest GDLs in the country. The state is also the only one in the nation to not require a behind-the-wheel test for new drivers and does not mandate formal driving education classes. For a fraction of the cost of what it would take to implement these programs Texas accomplished more by encouraging teens to help each other. It’s real food for thought for how we are handling the teen crash epidemic in this country. As I’ve been saying for a long time: simply telling teens what to do is not the answer.

Posted in Graduated Driver's Licenses, Studies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted in dmv driver's training, driving school, Graduated Driver's Licenses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Connecticut DMV says teen driving laws are working

Posted by lapearce on July 24, 2009

Speeding convictions have dropped 43% over the past two years in Conn.

Speeding convictions have dropped 43% over the past two years in Conn.

Teen driving laws that took effect about a year ago in Connecticut seem to be making an impact. The DMV says there has been a drop in fatalities caused by teen drivers as well as a significant drop in convictions for driving-related offenses among teenagers.

The laws, which took effect last August, included stricter curfews for new drivers, more on-the-road training and tougher drunk driving penalties.

A recent study out of Australia showed that inforcement is a very good way to make teens follow laws. The fear of getting caught is more than the fear of dying among new drivers, it seems. These laws save lives and not enough states have them. However, just because a state has a shiney new graduated driver’s license law doesn’t mean that education should be shelved. Teaching teens how to drive is still far more important than just punishing them for making mistakes.

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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.

Posted in DMV, dmv driver's training, driving school, Graduated Driver's Licenses, Studies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New York comes through with teen driving law!

Posted by lapearce on July 16, 2009

Crash caused by a cell phone

Crash caused by a cell phone

I had given up on New York after the legislature showed that they were more concerned with who was in charge than doing their job. However, late is better than never. Today, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would require 50 hours behind the wheel training (up from 20), require learning permits for six months, restrict non-relative teen passengers to one if no adult is in the car, as well as ban cell phones, texting and all other electronic use (including ipods) for all drivers. Gone, however, is the language that would not allow teens to bargain against speeding tickets. A seat belt requirement was removed from the bill earlier in the year.

This legislation is much needed in New York. I  don’t know how anyone could argue that texting while driving is safe. The restrictions on passengers and the increease in behind the wheel time will only help, not hurt. So why 57 percent of News Day readers think the current laws are good enough, that I don’t understand. I don’t think they realize how dangerous it is out there for new drivers. And that is part of the problem.

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