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 ‘innovation’ Category

Maryland can’t give away free cameras to monitor teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on June 17, 2009

It sounds like many parents’ dream come true: free in-car cameras for teen drivers that turn on and record when ever something sudden happens in the car: hard braking, avoidance, acceleration or a crash. The cameras, free from DriveCam, are designed to not just allow parents to monitor how their teens are driving, but to help teach their teens lessons that they haven’t yet learned. Along with the clips, tips are provided to help prevent the incidents from happening again. Despite the fact that the program is free (and even comes with a gas card for participating) the program  is struggling to give away all 300 cameras.

“We’re not exactly sure why. Of course the kids aren’t gung-ho about it — they think it’s a camera to spy on them – but we’re not sure why the parents aren’t buying in.” Said Christina Sinz, whose Washington Metro Region Highway Safety Office has only given out two cameras. Sinz has spoken to PTAs and distributed fliers with little success at finding more participants in the program.

Those who use the DriveCam cameras are asked to participate in a year-long study, paid for by a grant from the Maryland State Highway Administration. Even though all cameras have not been claimed, the program has already logged 11,000 to 12,000 events.

Debbie Jennings of the Calvert County Community Traffic Safety is having more luck than Sinz at giving away the cameras, and has 100 participants in Calvert County. “Most [parents] tend to be somewhat surprised by what they see going on in their teens’ cars… I’m also hearing from parents that this was exactly what they needed, that even if nothing is happening in the car, they have peace of mind.”

Jennings said that once teens learned that the videos weren’t going to be reviewed by the police that they warm up to the program, and many of them see the benefits. “The big picture is it’s meant to benefit more people than me … Hopefully, I can learn from [my father’s] mistakes and hopefully with this other people can learn from my mistakes.” said Mateo Williamson who is in competition with his father to see who can trigger the camera less on their shared car.

Parents in the program have been shocked to discover their teens not wearing their seatbelts, or driving with more people than they are supposed to. One participant said he would probably slow down becacuse the camera is in the car. That one move in the hopes to not triggering the camera and alerting his parents to his behavior will reduce the chances that he’s involved in a crash. Even though the program can be an eye opener for parents, and help teach teens safe driving practices, parents are still unwilling to participate. Why? Are they so worried about the repricutions of “spying” on their child that they’d rather increase their chances of a car crash?


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New software maps teen’s position and speed

Posted by lapearce on June 16, 2009

Even the best kids can make bad decisions behind the wheel of a car. Starting today, all new and existing Zoombak GPS customers will be able to tell which direction their teen is heading, and how fast it is. they can also look at speed averages.

Simon Buckingham, CEO of Zoombak says that teens’ driving habits improve when monitored by parents. This is true, parental involvement is key fo a teen being safe on the road. I don’t think many teens would risk speeding or going where they aren’t supposed to go when they know their parents are monitoring their every move.

This may be seen by many, especially teens, as a gross violation of personal freedom for the teens. I’ll admit, it is a little Big Brotherish to be able to monitor your teen’s every move. While they are under the age of 18, however, they are your responsibility, and if you think that monitoring them is the way to keep them safe, then that is your decision.

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ZoomSafer hopes to take distraction away from cell phones

Posted by lapearce on June 11, 2009

My bluetooth headset broke this week. I ordered myself a new Jawbone 2, the latest and greatest in hands free communication devices from Amazon. It’s being delivered as we speak, so for right now: no cell phone while I drive for me. Even with bluetooth, I don’t like talking in the car. Your brain still gives attention to the conversation, which means less attention is on the road.

Like a lot of people, though, I feel like I need to answer calls. It may be from work, or from home, and I don’t want that person calling me to think that I’m ignoring them. Many times the calls only take a second too, a quick little “I’m driving, can I call you back?” Many teens feel the need to respond to calls, texts, emails, facebook comments, etc as soon as possible. It goes back to brain development, where teens are more emotional than rational with their thoughts. So even with the number of cell phone bans in dozens of states in this country, teens are still talking, texting, tweeting and facebooking while they drive.

Well, ZoomSafer hopes to satisfy their need. Their free software, which will be out in beta format in roughly 45 days, will be a sort of personal assistant for your cell phone when you are in your car. Miachel Riemer, founder and CEO of ZoomSafer tells me that the software will, “prevent distracted driving but still allow users to stay connected with their friends, family and social networks.”

These are the features that the software will have:

  • Activates automatically when driving
  • Reminds you to drive safely (including reminders from friends, family, celebrities, etc)
  • Optionally inform friends, family, co-workers, and social networks when and where you’re driving (can also share your location)
  • Applies preferences to manage inbound communications (including the “out-of-office” replies we call auto-toots)
  • Suppresses unwanted alerts (SMS and emails still arrive you just don’t get alerted until you are done driving)
  • Provides a set of voice services so you can send/receive emails and text messages with your voice

Hopefully this program will help teens, and adults, drive with ease, knowing that their friends are being attended to with ZoomSafer.

You can register for the beta here. I am already signed up and will post my review after I’ve used the program.

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Rookie Driver magnents now patented

Posted by lapearce on June 11, 2009

I’ve used the Rookie Driver magnet photo in my post about New Jersey’s new teen driver program that mandates novice driver cars be marked as such. Since I’ve been using their photo, I think it is time to give them some credit.

The Rookie Driver magnent is available in all 50 states, so teens who do not live in New Jersey, or Deleware (where stickers are optional) can still let people on the road know that the driver behind the wheel is a new, or “rookie” driver. Rookie Driver hopes that their signs become a nation-wide indicator of a new driver.

The purpose of the magnents, according to Rookie Driver is to “allow experienced drivers in every state to quickly identify the symbol and anticipate common new driver mistakes.”

Another hope for these signs, that New Jersey has identified, is that the teen drivers will drive more carefully because they are branded and know people are watching them.

So if you have a teen driver and do not live in New Jersey or Delaware, but still want to have them identified out on the road, either the Rookie Driver magnent, or Safer Teen Driver’s “How’s My Driver” signs are a good option.

Remember too, though, to talk to your kids about safe driving and come up with rules on your own for them to follow. Don’t just rely on a magnent or a sign to keep your teen under control while driving. They can help, but they are not a replacement for parental involvement.

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Delaware ups commitment to teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on June 8, 2009

“In 2008, teen drivers in Delaware made up 5% of all licensed drivers, but were involved in 10% of all vehicle crashes,” said Jennifer Cohan, Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles today during the unveiling of a number of new teen driving programs aimed at reducing crashes and deaths among new drivers.

At the press conference today Lt. Governor Matt Denn and representatives from the Teen Driving Task Force,  a collection of agencies that educate teen drivers, including announced the programs that aim to educate teens and parents more about the dangers of driving.

These programs include the newly launched, which has information about laws, tips and stories (well, one story so far) from teen drivers about safety. Delaware is also introducing a class for teens and parents about graduated drivers license laws that hopes to increase knowledge, and parental involvement in teen driving. Parental involvement has shown to significantly decrease crashes, the involvement of parents in this plan is paramont, in my opinion, to its success.

Delaware will also hand out reflective stickers identifying new drivers at DMV locations. They are not mandated like they are in New Jersey.

These new initiatives were created through a joint effort by: Division of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Education, the Office of Highway Safety, Delaware State Police, AAA Mid-Atlantic, and SmartDrive. The Teen Driving Task Force was founded last year to come up with solutions to the teen driving problem with the goals of educating teen drivers and their parents about the safe driving skills, training, and the consequences if ignored.

I would have liked to see the Task Force take on the driving skills and training aspects more, but any improvement is good improvement.

Posted in DMV, dmv driver's training, Graduated Driver's Licenses, innovation, program | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ford introduces “MyKey” in hopes to save lives

Posted by lapearce on May 28, 2009

Is custom programing that limited speed and requires seat belt use the key to saving lives? Ford thinks it is. Yesterday they unvailed MyKey, a system that will come standard on all new Fords.

How MyKey works is that the car comes with two keys, one for the parents and one for the new driver. The car will drive normally for the parent, but for the teen, chips in the key will tell the car not to go past a certain speed, not turn the stereo on until the driver is buckled up, and even control how loud the music is. It will also prevent traction control from being turned off, and let you know sooner when the car is running out of gas.

So, is MyKey the answer? Well, it can’t hurt. MyKey is great because it eliminates two big cause of deaths among new drivers: excessive speed and lack of seat belts. Current technology can just make parents aware when their new driver goes past a certain speed, or chime annoyingly at the teen to buckle up. This actually stops them. I think that over time, it will create better habits in the teens with cars that have MyKey.

The program won’t solve all problems associated with new drivers, but it’s a step in the right direction. We always tell our families that we can’t ride home with them. Now, in some way, we can.

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N.J. makes decal display for new drivers law

Posted by lapearce on April 16, 2009

Example of third-party  new driver decal

Example of third-party new driver decal

I blogged about this back when the bills were still moving through the legislature. Now it is official: New Jersey is the first state to require drivers under the age of 21 to display a decal identifying them as new drivers.

The purpose of the law is to make new drivers easier to spot by law enforcement in the hopes that they will drive more cautiously.

“Kyleigh’s Law” as it is called was named after 16-year-old Kyleigh D’Alessoi who was killed along with another teen in a crash. “The legislation I am signing today initiates several preventative measures to help avoid further teen driving tragedies like Kyleigh’s while ensuring that our young people are better prepared to safely take to the roadways,” said Gov. Corzine as he signed the bill into law at Central High in Chester Township, where Kyleigh was a student.

Along with requiring decals, the law will change the name of the provisional licenses to probationary, limits new drivers to one passenger, restrict driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and ban cell phones.

Other decal programs

While New Jersey may be the first state to require decals, it is not the first world-wide to do so. Australia, British Columbia, Northern Ireland and Japan are some of the other places that require decals. Delaware and Connecticut are considering similar requirements.

If you are not in New Jersey and would like a decal for your child’s car, the organization gives parents the opportunity to put “Hows my Driving” stickers on their teen drivers with similar hopes as New Jersey that the knowledge that they are being watched will make teens drive more cautiously. also sells stickers itendifying new drivers, but without a way to report bad drivers.

Posted in crash, innovation, law | 3 Comments »

Bumper stickers allow parents to keep tabs on teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on March 17, 2009

“How’s My Driving” bumper stickers are now available for teen drivers. “The program lets people in the community monitor how teens are driving. Parents register online and get a ID number that is on a bumper sticker. Then people in the community can go to the Web site: Type in the ID number and leave a message for parents about their teen’s driving.”

The mother who started the program, Valerie Peterson, feels the program will help new drivers because it will make them aware that they are being watched and adjust their behavior.

“I think it will heighten his awareness of the fact that the community is watching him and helping to keep him safe on the road.”

I don’t want to downplay the attempts parents are making to ensure the safety of their children, however, I feel that if we were to improve driver’s training we wouldn’t need monitoring systems, GPS, text messages when teens go above a certain speed, and all the other band-aid fixes we’re giving the driver’s education system instead of just fixing it.

Hows my driving? How about Hows my driving education? Call 1-800-FAILURE

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NHTSA to force technology to remove “blind spots”

Posted by lapearce on February 14, 2009

The economy is the biggest thing on every one’s mind right now. Up to the top is also the fate of the car companies, and how they will survive when many of them are seeing double-digit profit declines. It is a head-smacking, what are they thinking, time when you learn that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is wasting ours, and the car companies’ money, by fixing yet another problem that doesn’t really exist.

According to Autoblog, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is going to start mandating blind spot removal devices on all cars. These devices include: “additional mirrors, cameras or sensors, as well as brake interlock systems that won’t allow cars to shift out of park without the application of the brakes.” I have a question for the NHTSA, why don’t you just teach people how to use their mirrors?

The fact is that there is no such thing of a blind spot unless you are in a large vehicle, in which case there is a blind spot behind the back window. Blind spots are created by the driver, and are easily solved by proper mirror placement. Most people have their mirrors adjusted so that they can see the side of their car. Why? It’s going the same place the front of the car is. This causes a large overlap in view between the side mirrors and back mirrors, and completely eliminates any view ahead of the rear quarter panel.

To remove your blind spot, you don’t need a computer to beep at you when a vehicle is beside you, or another mirror to look at the blind spot, or a camera, all you need to do is push your mirror out a little. Press your head against the glass of the driver’s side window and adjust your mirror so you can barily see the side of it. Then, move your body so that your head is in the middle of the car (in front of the rear view mirror) and adjust the passanger mirror so that you can see a small part of the car. Now, when you look in your mirrors you won’t have any blind spot! It will take a little bit of time to get used to, but it works.

There, I just saved the US Government and the car markers millions of dollars.

This illustration shows how properly adjusted mirrors remove blind spots:

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