Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘accident’

The victim mentality

Posted by lapearce on October 3, 2010

We are a nation of victims.  It seems like it is always someone’s fault when something happens, there is always someone to blame.  Overweight? Blame Starbucks.  Alcoholic?  Blame mom.  Get in a car crash?  Blame the other person, the government organization that maintains the road, the company that made your car, the mechanic who replaced your brakes, the list can go on and on.

I’ve never liked calling a crash an accident because accident implies a lack of fault.  Yet even though people will call something an accident it won’t stop them from pointing fingers and filing lawsuits against anyone who may have money to pay out.  Recently Hyundai settled a lawsuit that stemmed from a fatal crash killed by a drunk executive, who was then helped out of the country by a fellow Hyundai employee.  In this case there was definitely someone at fault– Youn Bum Lee who chose to drive drunk then chose to flee the crash scene and chose to leave the country.  The company that employed him did not make Lee drive drunk, nor did they instruct the other employee to help him flee.  Many times though, fault isn’t so clearly delineated.

While there may be someone who is at fault for a crash, that doesn’t mean that the “victim” was helpless in avoiding the crash.  Last night I was making a left hand turn around midnight after seeing the movie Wall Street (wait for HBO).  It was a double left turn onto a three-lane road.  I was in the outside lane and another car was on the inside lane.  As a defensive driver, I allowed the other car go a head of me and stayed behind the car as we made the left hand turn.  Thankfully I did this because the distracted, teenage driver who was too busy chatting on her phone to pay attention to what she was doing, chose to turn into the far right lane instead of the inside lane that she was supposed to turn into.  Had I been next to her she would have hit me.  It would have been her fault (hard to prove in a sideswipe for your future reference) but just because it would have been her fault doesn’t mean that I was helpless to avoid the crash.  By driving defensively I kept my car in one piece.

I tell all my teen drivers to always assume the other driver isn’t paying attention and to anticipate their next move.  If the person behind you isn’t paying attention or has a bad habit of stopping late then change lanes and let them get in front of you.  That way if they fail to stop they won’t be crashing into your car.  When you stop in traffic, or at a light, make sure to always leave room in front of you and look for an exit.  If the car behind you doesn’t stop in time you at least have a way to reduce the impact.  And, before you go at a green light check for red light runners.

All of these defensive driving techniques will help you not become a victim.  And if you are involved in a crash don’t be afraid to ask yourself what you could have done to avoid the collision.  It will be a good lesson for the next time you are in a similar situation.


Posted in advice, crash | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

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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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 »

Pre-prom crash takes life of 16 year old

Posted by lapearce on May 31, 2009

There is nothing sadder than a child dieing. Especially when that child dies during a time that is supposed to be happy and joyous, like prom. This weekend in Los Angeles 16 year old Jennifer Perla was killed on the way to her high school prom after the driver, a fellow teen, tried to avoid another car and flipped the SUV he was driving. Jennifer was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car.

The vehicle was filled with happy teens on their way to their senior prom for Taft High School for what should have been a night of celebration. Jennifer had been invited to prom by a senior. She was a sophomore and just turn 16 a week before the crash. She loved to dance and wanted to be in the FBI. So many dreams cut short. The other occupants in the SUV, including Jennifer’s sister, were also injured. Lord knows the driver will never recover for what happened as well.

My deepest condollances for the friends and family.

Posted in crash, prom | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Two teens injured in San Jose crash

Posted by lapearce on March 19, 2009

Last night a teen was seriously injured in a crash, a crash that happened because the driver was unable to judge the speed of an oncoming car.

A skill that comes with, you guessed it, experience.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the 17-year-old driver was heading east on a road and attempted to make a left turn in front of a truck heading west, “[he] made a left from the turn pocket, and should have yielded.”

The little 1992 Nissan Coupe carrying two 17-year-old boys was hit by a much larger 2007 GMC pickup on its side, breaking the pelvis of the passenger. The car eventually ended up on its top from the force of the collision.

While the boys are lucky to be alive, there is no doubt that serious physical therapy and pain are in their future. My best wishes to them in their long road to recovery.

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AAA finds teens kill others more often than themselves

Posted by lapearce on March 9, 2009

It has been confirmed that the teen car crash death epidemic in the United States has an even larger effect on other people than it does on the under-educated teen driver.

AAA released a study last week that revealed that teen drivers kill twice as many passengers, occupants in other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, etc than they do themselves. According to AAA, “Nationally, between 1998 and 2007, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed 28,138 people, of whom 10,388 (36.9%) were teen drivers themselves. The remaining 17,750 (63.1%) deaths included 8,829 passengers of the teen drivers, 6,858 occupants of other vehicles operated by adult drivers, and 2,063 non-motorists and others.”

Now, there is good news, teen drivers are becoming better drivers due to Graduated Drivers License programs, which California does have. However, AAA says that 49 states fall short of the AAA guidelines for these programs. AAA also strongly urges the involvement of parents, which California doesn’t do. Why not have the parents attend a portion of driver’s ed with their child? Or offer a separate program to instruct parents on how to best teach their children how to drive?

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Dropped Cell Phone Leads to Fatal Crash

Posted by lapearce on February 14, 2009

I was just reading a report from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration today that sited that teen drivers did not see a link between distractions and crashes, even though many of them have accidents while distracted. The NHTSA actually recommended that: “If they can’t be talked out of multitasking they should be encouraged not to tailgate to avoid frequent rear-end collisions.” That mentality of treating a symptom and not a problem would not have saved Gladis A. Andrade-Zepeda today.

Gladis, 33, was driving early this morning on the 405 freeway with two passengers when she dropped her cell phone. As she looked for the phone, her car swerved across lanes and hit the center divider. Both Gladis and her passengers survived the accident, but then, she made the decision that cost her her life: she got out of the car.

Gladis was attempting to get her passenger in the backseat out of the car when another car, traveling at normal highway speeds, broadsided her vehicle, killing Gladis. Her car was completely dark since the lights were broken in the collision and she didn’t put her hazards on. The passenger still in the backseat survived both the initial crash and the secondary one with moderate injuries.

This tragic story reminds us of a few important considerations when driving:

1. Distractions kill. California’s new cell phone law does not prohibit the searching for or the dialing of a cell phone while driving. These are the most dangerous acts one can do with a phone while driving.

2. Put your hazards on after a collision. This will make your car visible to others to help avoid another crash. The same NHTSA study found that new drivers do not know what to do in an accident. I feel that better education in this area could have saved Gladis’s life.

3. Stay in your car. 4,000 lbs of metal around you offer better protection than your body alone.

My hopes and prayers go out to Gladis’ family and friends, and for the recovery of the other people involved in this tragic crash.

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Service workers hit by teen driver in Orange County

Posted by lapearce on February 14, 2009

Another strike on the already poor report card of teen drivers occurred today in Orange County, according to the Orange County Register. It reports: “Around 8:30 a.m., a 16-year-old boy was driving a Toyota 4X4 at Camino de los Mares at I-5 lost control of the vehicle, hit a center divider and struck two men performing roadside work.”

The men are very lucky that they had only minor injuries. And so is the boy, since no charges have been filed… yet.

The police may want to change their minds if this one post in regards to the crash is correct:

“I saw the accident happen this morning as I was waiting at a light near the freeway and the kid tried to run a yellow/red light and make a quick left-hand turn, where he lost control and nearly ran over the center divider into oncoming traffic. He then overcorrected and ran into an area where about 20 workers were but most of them ran once they heard the loud screeching of his truck. Then a few teen girls quickly got out of the car and ran off. I’m assuming 16 year-olds are not supposed to drive with other teens in the car with them for this reason. He is really lucky the accident didn’t turn out much worse since, from my vantage point, it looked like a lot more than 2 guys got hit. It was a brand new truck that some obviously spoiled kid did not deserve.”

If what this poster says is true, then the teen driver was driving too fast for the conditions and was breaking the conditions of the restricted license by having under age passengers. Both of these show a complete lack of respect and responsibility for the privilege to drive a car. He could have killed someone, and it is very fortunate that he didn’t.

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Summary of Sunday’s Clinic

Posted by lapearce on February 14, 2009

Yasmine nagivages an emergency lane change in H3

We had a great class on Sunday. Judy, our head instructor, was off testing out the brand new BMW 7 series with Creiver BMW, but the rest of the instructors stepped in to teach the class.

We had nine students and the range of teens and cars wouldn’t have been more diverse and interesting: from a Mini Cooper to a Ford F350 super dulie! Classes this diverse are always the best, because they show both the parents and the teens how differently some cars can turn, stop and avoid accidents.

One of our students, Yasmine came with her parents and two cars: Mercedes S class and a Hummer H. Neither of which were the car she would be driving when she got her license, but they brought both cars because they didn’t know which one she should learn on.

Yasmine wanted to learn in the Mercedes because the H3 scared her. I told her parents to use the H3. The car was going to be a lot harder to handle. She would have to work a lot harder to learn in it, and that hard work would pay off in appreciation and skills that would be transfered than if the course was taken in a car that does everything for you.

At the end of the day, Yasmine was glad she learned in the H3. While she no longer was afraid to drive the car, but she also knew that she didn’t want to. She said the best thing about learning how to drive in the H3 was that she really appreciated small cars because of it. She learned that bigger doesn’t mean safer if you can’t avoid an accident.

I know Yasmine will be fine once she gets her license.

Elizabeth struggles to miss cones in her large truck

Elizabeth struggles to avoid cones in her large truck

The nimble MINI goes around the obstical with ease

Blake learns that when you lock up the brakes on a car without ABS that the car no longer turns

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