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 ‘teen driver’ 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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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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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.

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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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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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Alcohol isn’t the only substance that lead to teen car crashes

Posted by lapearce on August 19, 2009

About a third of fatal teen crashes involved alcohol. It is a scary number and it obviously means that something needs to be done about this epidemic of drunk driving from teen drivers. Lack of understanding of their tolerances, and the feel of invincibility makes teens more susceptible to drinking and driving, even if they cannot legally drink. Just last week a local teen, Milad Moulayi, was found guilty of second degree murder when, at the age of 17, he drove his mother’s Mercedes Benz at speeds in excess of 100mph down a city street, crossed into on coming traffic and hit a light pole, killing his 16-year-old passenger. He had a bac of .11.

While parents need to talk to their teens about the dangers of drinking and driving and make sure they know that you are always able to pick them up and drive them home no matter where they are or what time it is, there are other substances that need to be discussed as well.

One of these substances is pot. The NHTSA found that while drunk driving is decreasing, stoned driving is on the upswing. On any given night roughly 9% of drivers are high on marijuana, compared to just over 2% who hit the bottle before getting on the road.

The biggest problem with driving while stoned is that the driver often thinks that they are driving just fine and many times often think they are safer drivers than when sober, as a NHTSA focus group found. However, a recent study showed that slow reaction time makes stoned driving just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Over the counter drugs are also a problem. About 4 percent of night time drivers are under the influence of prescription pills, many illegally. This problem is especially prevalent among teens, who raid their parents medicine cabinets or buy their classmate’s medication at school. It is estimated that 1 in 5 teens abuse presription paint drugs. Many of these pills carry that familiar warning: may cause drowsiness, do not drive or operate heavy machinery.

The dangers don’t stop at typical drugs that we expect, there are other meneses out there that are discounted because they aren’t seen as a drug. Huffing, the act of inhaling materials such as electronic duster or spray paint for a high is a dangerous fad among teens. These products are easy to get and a lot of teens feel that they are safe because they aren’t drugs. But the effects of huffing can be very dangerous and even more so behind the wheel.

The symptoms of huffing are: dizziness, strong hallucinations, delusions, belligerence, apathy, and impaired judgment. Additional symptoms exhibited by long-term inhalant abusers include weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression. Withdrawal symptoms include sweating, rapid pulse, hand tremors, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, hallucinations, and, in severe cases, grand mal seizures.

This isn’t a list of symptoms one would want to experience while driving. On August 3rd 17 year old Christine Manchester inhaled from a can of an aerosol duster while driving. According to a passenger she then: “got a blank stare on her face, her body became rigid, and the car went off the road and hit two trees.”

This is still just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to substances that can get your teen into trouble. When you talk to your teen about drinking and driving make sure to bring up other substances as well. Also, be aware of what the signs are of drug abuse and be aware of what your teen is doing. Let your new driver know that you are always there to pick them up if they aren’t in a state to drive. Getting them home safely is more important than what ever rule they broke or stupid thing they did. That comes first, punishment can come later.

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