Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

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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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.

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Study shows that cell phone laws don’t work

Posted by lapearce on January 29, 2010

You are four times more likely to crash if you are talking on a phone while drive than when you are not. In light of this fact the government came up with a solution: take phones away. Make it illegal and people will stop talking, crashes will drop, people will sing hallelujah! Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.  The results are in and “surprising”. According to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Institute for Highway Safety cell phone bans do not reduce the number of crashes.

“You know that there should be fewer [crashes],” he said. “We were looking for that, and we aren’t seeing that pattern,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Institute.

So does this mean that people are ignoring the bans? Actually, what is surprising about this is that people are not ignoring the bans. Cell phone use in states where it is banned has been cut 41-76 percent. Even though fewer people are chatting, the same number of people are crashing. It is counter-intuitive based on the higher crash risk while on the phone. So have Americans simply ceased to know how to drive? I’m starting to think they have.

There are two big problems with cell phone bans. First, in most states hands-free devices are still legal, but just as dangerous. The danger doesn’t come from holding a phone to your ear, it comes from your brain deciding that the conversation is more important than driving, which takes critical attention away from the more important task at hand: operating a two-ton machine at a high rate of speed. The second problem is that the most dangerous aspects of cell phone use are not illegal. These are: activating your bluetooth, dialing a number, answering the phone, etc etc etc all of which take your eyes off the road longer than the act of talking.

The other aspect is that while cell phone use is down, distractions are still up. GPS, Ipods, Starbucks. All of these items didn’t exist in cars 20 years ago, but now they are all but required. I also feel that people no longer stop to do what should be done when stopped. It was difficult to read a map and drive because the map was three feet across, folded 12 different ways and took a lot of attention. So you stopped to pull the map out and find your way. GPS is not three feet across and folded, but it can still be distracting, especially when you are plugging that address in.

People need to just get their eyes back on the road. Pull over to find your favorite CD or directions to Aunt Betsy’s house. Don’t think that just because you aren’t on the phone that you can’t be distracted.

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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.

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States ranked for teen driving laws– how did your state do?

Posted by lapearce on January 27, 2010

"Driving with a passanger after curfew I see"

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents that strive to make America’s roads safer, just released a new study they conducted on state’s teen driving laws. There are huge disparities in teen driving laws from state to state, some states let teens drive when they are 14, others won’t let you have a license until you are 17. Because of the differences from state to state it wasn’t too much of a shock when some states didn’t fare so well in this third-party review.

Ratings were given based on the number of teen laws in place by each state. It looked at seat belt, text messaging, age for learner’s permit, drunk driving laws among other driving laws.

The leader was the District of Columbia, with 13.5 laws following by New Jersey and Illinois. The worst states were:

South Dakota (only three laws)

Arizona

North Dakota

Wyoming

Virginia

Vermont

Pennsylvania

Ohio

Nebraska, rounding up the bottom of the barrel with 6.5 laws.

However, do more laws mean safer drivers? Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report ranked South Dakota as having the safest drivers in the nation, and Phoenix as having the safest drivers of all cities. Both South Dakota was rated the worst state and Arizona was also given a failing grade by the advocates. An AAA report found also that the safest states are not the ones with the strictest laws. As you may expect, when population density increases so does the risk of a collision. There is just more stuff to hit in a busy city than on a rural town- and speeds can be higher on those big freeways. So maybe these less dense states don’t need as many laws, because the risks are different?

I’ve always felt that we focus too much on enforcement and not enough on education when it comes to teaching our teens how to drive.  When your teen was a toddler, you likely had those plastic covers over the outlet to prevent them from getting electrocuted. Why? Because you knew it was a good way to prevent a potentially life threatening situation. This, is like driver’s education. You are preventing the problem by stopping it with a plug. Laws are if you told your 2 year old not to touch then expected them to listen. They might. But they might not. If you see them go for the outlet you can slap their hand and say no, but what if you aren’t there? What if a police officer isn’t around to see your child driving dangerously? Then the defenses have failed and your child is at risk.

I’m not against strict teen driving laws, I just worry that we focus so much on enforcement that we’ve lost sight of education. Instead of continuing to tell our teens no we should just put a plug in it!

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Carnage in California: why can’t we drive in the rain?

Posted by lapearce on December 8, 2009

This happens about this time every year: Southern California gets its first rain in about eight months, the dirty roads get incredibly slick, and car-capades take effect as people slide around, apparently having forgotten how to drive on wet grounds since it has been so long since the last storm. Monday, Orange County had nearly 500 calls about crashes, compared to less than 150 last Monday when it was dry. Luckily,  no one was killed.

California drivers do deserve some slack when it comes to wet weather driving. First, because it rains so little each rain is like the first rain, and our roads are a lot slicker because a lot more oil has been allowed to accumulate in the road. Second: we often times get a lot of rain fairly quickly and our roads can’t cope with it, which leads to flooding and causes more crashes. Third: because it rains only a handful of times a year many of us don’t bother changing tires for winter, many of us will run on summer tires all year long– maybe not the smartest thing to do, but we do it.

All our excuses can’t forgive the truth of the So Cal roads in December. How I see is that there are two fundamental problem drivers out there: the drivers who drive as if it is dry, and the drivers who drive as if it is icy. When the reckless meet the over cautious you get crashes. Throw into the mix the average driver who has increased caution but not to the point where they are a moving road block and well… the whole thing is a mess.

People need to realize that while rain isn’t the end of the world, they need to adjust their driving for the weather. Whoa your speed down, but also important: leave more space between you and the cars around you and be observant. Traction and visibility are often impaired in the rain. This reduces your chances of seeing danger (adding to reaction time) but you can’t make up that lost time because guess what — your car won’t stop as far or won’t grip to the payment. Que the fender benders and spin outs. Instead of having this outcome, just leave more room! Give yourself a lot more space than you would in dry weather and also be watchful, for the people driving as if it wasn’t raining, the people driving as if the world is ending, and the people who are distracted or aren’t leaving the space they need. If everyone just slowed down a little, rainy roads would be a much better place.

Don’t get me started on So Cal drivers in the snow.

Collage of Car Carnage:

Ferrari spun out:

Driver was seriously injured:

Hey truck, you’re not supposed to be on your roof:

Car was hit by an SUV, causing it to spin into the pole:

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Speeding teen kills family of four in Somona, CA

Posted by lapearce on December 3, 2009

This tragic tale happens far too often. 19 year old Steven Culbertson killed a family of four on Saturday night as he ran a red light in his MINI Cooper at 70-90mph. Speed limit on the road is 55mph. His little car t-boned a Nissan minivan killing the family of four inside as they returned from the airport after a vacation in Hawaii. John and Susan Maloney and their children Aiden (8) and Gracie (5) were killed instantly in the crash, Steven died on Sunday due to his injuries. To add salt to the wounds, two deadbeats decided that since the family was dead they no longer needed their worldly possessions and robbed their house. The couple was arrested yesterday, ironically they were found out when the woman, Amber True, was arrested for driving without a license.

Minivan belonging to the Maloney family after being hit by a speeding teen

Steven had his license suspended for a year when he was 17 due to drunk driving. It is unclear at this point if alcohol was a factor in this crash, but an eye witness says he say him drinking two hours before the fateful crash, which, ironically, happened right down the street from Infineon Raceway, a place where people can go those types of speed legally and safely without having to worry about hitting minivans filled with children.

The MINI driver had aspirations of being a racer, and had taken his car to the track– the only place where one should drive like he was driving on Saturday night. Unfortunately, Steven could not separate track driving from road driving and it lead to his death and the death of four others. He made a big mistake, a mistake that could have implications for your teen.

First off, when ever a crash like this happens, the thing that stands out for everyone is the word teenager. Steven just dropped the credibility of all teen drivers by his mistake. Teens already have really low credibility as drivers due to their inexperience, and their propensity to make bad decisions. Teens do cause more crashes than older drivers, but that doesn’t mean that teens are always at fault for their crashes or that all teens will make the same mistake Steven did.

Secondly, when crashes like this happen the natural reaction of many is “change the laws/road so this doesn’t happen again”. People love blaming the road. The road didn’t do anything, it was just a strip of asphalt that accommodated the perpetrator of the crime. There is always something to blame with the road. There’s a rise in the hill that interferes with visibility, or the speed limit is too high, or there aren’t enough barriers, no matter what the case, the road will be blamed. Then people will look at the laws, and not the driver training laws, they’ll try to restrict teen drivers more. This just puts a band-aid on the problem and doesn’t fix anything.

Third: race car drivers or aspiring race car drivers can have their name tarnished. I’m a HUGE advocate of taking your car to the track. You learn so much about yourself as a driver and the abilities of your car when you push it to the limits. It makes you a better driver. It is also the only safe place to drive your car fast. I find that going to the track takes the need for speed away and that I drive calmer on the road for weeks after a good day on a race track. Most of the race car drivers I know drive very responsibly on the road. I don’t want anyone to look down at people who drive on the track, or keep their children from participating in track days, because of this crash. It is worthwhile and driving fast on the track does not mean you will drive fast on the road.
I really hope that one day we no longer have to read stories like this. I hope that one day better training means that drivers are more responsible on the road. Until that day: be safe, and keep it on the track!

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In case you needed more proof that the driver’s education program is broken

Posted by lapearce on December 1, 2009

I just had this conversation with a fifteen-year-old:

Teen: I just finished drivers ed last night D

Me: Congrats, how was the class?

Teen: Well it was online, I listened to music, watched tv and used the book, aka didn’t learn s**t.

Me: That is exactly what is wrong with the system

Teen: It was free and offered through school

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Michigan puts activism before safety in drivers training

Posted by lapearce on November 30, 2009

Michigan is not in good financial state right now. Most states aren’t, but as far as financial woes go, Michigan is at the forefront with many of its bread-winning companies (GM, Chrysler) struggling to survive, corruption in its government and other serious problems. The state is running in the red and has the highest unemployment rate in the nation– 15.1% as of 11/20. Michigan has issues, but one of those issues is not a lack of environmental awareness among new drivers. However, some representatives in Michigan seem to think this problem is pressing enough to pursue when entire towns are being boarded up and abandoned due to the economic crisis.

Driver’s education should be the place where teens learn how to drive. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case in America. Our standards for licensing are incredibly poor and this is reflected in the high number of fatal teen crashes in the nation’s roads. Teens learn more about how to pass the drivers test and how a yield sign works than how to actually drive. They are not taught how to avoid crashes and they are not taught safe driving practices to help ensure they are never in the place where they need to avoid a crash. Michigan also lacks solid graduated drivers license laws. So not only is the state not teaching teens how to drive, its not offering them adequate protection once they get their license. But instead of fixing these problems two legislatures would rather cultivate new tree huggers in an education model that will only cause more crashes and more deaths.

Now, let me get something straight. I’m not anti-environment. I’m not for raping the earth just for our consumption. I don’t go out and hug many trees, but I do my part. I buy local and organic, I use reusable shopping bags, I drive a car that gets pretty good fuel economy, I take public transportation. Oh, and I vote Republican. But I’m a moderate. So I’m not against things like carpool or public transportation, I’m just against using the precious few hours teens spend in drivers education talking about these things instead of talking about, oh, you know– driving.

Michigan lawmakers  Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, and Dan Scripps, D-Leland have put forth a bill that would require drivers education to teach about buying fuel efficient cars and the benefits of carpooling and using public transportation. On its surface this may seem rather benign, but it is far from that.

First off: fuel efficient cars. Ok, whats wrong with that? Well, many fuel efficient cars sacrifice handling, braking and safety for the sake of a few miles per gallon. We’ve had a tug of war battle between safety and fuel economy in this nation since both environmentalism and Nader’s car safety campaign began in the 1970s. The sad fact is that these two agendas conflict with each other.

The Untied State’s CAFE standards kill people every year. CAFE is the US standards on fuel economy that started in the 1970s.  Manufactures are fined for not meeting standards, pushing them to make more fuel efficient cars. But fuel efficiency doesn’t always equal safety. Simply physics is that more weight protects you in a crash. Safety systems such as airbags, ABS brakes, traction control, and crumple zones are all heavy. So are powerful motors, navigation control, and heated motorized leather seats that the consumer demands. Throw all of these things into a car and you have one heavy vehicle… and that weight decreases fuel economy. So to increase fuel economy, manufacturers started to use lighter materials to make cars. The effect: 46,000 fatalities since CAFE was inacted that would have been avoided with better made cars. That’s 7,700 deaths for every mpg gained.

Prius are heavy and narrow, they handle and stop poorly which can lead to crashes

I’m not advocating that everyone drives Excurions guzzling gallons of gas a minute, but I also don’t think that the Prius and other fuel efficient cars are good choices for most people. Michigan has pretty bad weather, by focusing on fuel efficiency you may put kids who should be driving higher clearance AWD cars for the conditions in FWD cars that can’t handle snow as well, increasing crashes. What if you play sports? A little hatch back may not be the best option to haul around your gear. By emphasizing fuel efficiency only you are ignoring the different needs of different drivers. You are also ignoring other points of consideration for new cars such as safety, price and maintenance needs. This is before you even consider the fact that the average 16 year old isn’t the one going out and buying their first car, it is usually mom or dad.

Second problem: carpooling. There is a very good reason why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that teens not be allowed to carry passengers until they’ve had their license for a year. Teen drivers with ONE passenger in the car are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a teen driver driving along. Twice as likely. They are distracting and the lead to peer pressure. Teens are more likely to show off when they have other teens in the car in order to look cool for their friends– a trait that has lead to many crashes. Michigan does not include passenger restrictions in their graduated drivers laws. Instead of asking why not, these two legislature are taking advantage in the flaws in the system to further their agendas. By encouraging carpooling they will kill kids.

Yes, carpooling saves gas, it keeps miles of the car, it makes Mother Nature sing a loving song right out of a Disney movie, but it is also dangerous. Ask any parent what is more important to them: saving a few bucks a month on fuel economy or having their child reach 17. I think we all know how that one is going to end.

Well what about public transportation? I think public transportation is great. I use the train myself quite a bit instead of driving. I don’t have any objection to teaching teens about public transportation… in another venue. Why teach drivers about not driving? Isn’t that like teaching math in history class? It doesn’t make sense to be in driver’s education at all. There is also probably a safety aspect here to teenage girls taking public transportation late at night too that I’m sure many parents would have issue with.

Our teens get precious little education when it comes to driving. It is a big problem that should be addressed. It has been said that if teen driving was a disease that killed 5,000 teens each year the nation would be in an uproar. Everyone would be trying to find a cure, there would be walks, donation drives, etc, but the fatal teen driving epidemic cannot be cured by a pill, it can only be cured by more and higher quality education. I feel there is a huge flaw in our system of government when it comes to setting laws. We entrust people without actual knowledge in issues to create laws for them. If either Bert Johnson or Dan Scripps of Michigan had any worthwhile drivers education and experience, or if either of them had just bothered to look at the NHTSA teen driving page, they would realize their law was a bad idea.

Stop taking driving out of drivers training! We need more in car education not less. Take your environmental agenda to a place that is more approrpaite and leave drivers training for drivers training!

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