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 ‘parents’ Category

STANDUP must go beyond “no”

Posted by lapearce on October 5, 2010

Police Captain, and father of a teen killed in a car crash, speaks for STANDUP

The family members of teens killed in car crashes recently made a plea to Congress to pass the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection– or STANDUP— act.  The act would put uniform standards nation wide on drivers under the age of 18, increasing the rules that young drivers have to abide by.

Stricter teen driver laws, also known as graduated driver’s licenses, do a lot to reduce crashes and deaths among teens.  The laws do work, and uniform driving standards would be an excellent addition to our nation,  however, I think to truly stop the epidemic of teen driving deaths we have to go beyond telling teens “no”.

The real reason why car crashes account for 40 percent of teen deaths, in my opinion, is because of a lack of education on how to drive and over emphasis on what not to do.  Just saying no doesn’t work with teens– don’t driver after 10 p.m., don’t drive with friends, don’t drive with your cell phone– can encourage kids to act out by doing what they aren’t supposed to do.  The why do these no’s also aren’t fully enforced in current teen driving education.  Just saying no isn’t the solution, putting a teen in a car in a controlled environment and showing them the why behind the no can go much further.

Germany has much stricter driver’s education and driving laws than the United States do.  Not only do teens not get the opportunity to drive until they are 18, teens also go through much more intensive training (28 hours in the classroom and 35 hours behind the wheel compared to as little as no formal training in the United States) and a far more rigorous testing process.  Germany teens know that driving is a privilege, and they are made aware of the consequences of treating it as anything else.  As a result, teen driving deaths in Germany are far less than in the United States.

For teen driving deaths to drop in the United States we need a complete overhaul of the system, not just in the restrictions teen drivers face after they get their license, but in the training they receive before they are allowed to drive on our roads.  We need to change the mindset of the American public when it comes to driving.  It is a privilege and not a right, that paradigm shift within the American psyche will do a lot to curb teen driving deaths.

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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 »

Teenage girls are becoming more agressive on the road

Posted by lapearce on February 4, 2010

I guess that whole gender equality movement has finally peaked with the upcoming generation. A recent Allstate survey found that while teen boys are becoming calmer behind the wheel teen girls are increasingly taking part in risky behavior. Girls are also more likely to text while they drive– one in four are guilty of it.

The old assumptions that parents and insurance companies have had about girls being safer on the road than boys is coming to a screeching halt and girls prove that they can be dangerous too. If you have a teen daughter don’t feel as though she’ll be safe because she isn’t “aggressive”. As the old Disney cartoon “Motor Mania” showed, people become different when they are behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Studies have actually shown that we de-humanize people when they are surrounded by steal– or even the helmet of a motorcycle. We don’t react to them as people, we react to them as ‘cars’. This de-humanizing allows us to drop our typical societal norms of politeness and to treat people how we wouldn’t treat them if they weren’t in a vehicle. Would you ever cut in front of someone in line at the grocery store? Probably not. They will likely tap you on the shoulder and point to the end of the line. But how many of us have cut in front of other cars? No shoulder tapping, no pointing, a honk is easy enough to escape.

Girls need to be reminded that they are not immune to problems on the road. The dangers of distractions need to be drilled in them more than boys and both sexes need all the education they can get on how to be safe drivers.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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