Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘defensive driving’

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.


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Recap from yesterday’s driving school

Posted by lapearce on July 13, 2009

ABS stops can be scary for new drivers

ABS stops can be scary for new drivers

Yesterday we had a very good class. There were 12 students and they were a near even split of licensed and permitted drivers. We also had some good stories yesterday, here are some of them:

Shana was back for her second class! She took the course last year in a Land Rover LR3 that her mother intended to give to her. The car performed so poorly that her mom became increasingly worried about her daughter’s safety. I really took a liking to Shana and her mom during that class because I took pity on her mother. Here she is, buying a luxury SUV because she thought it was the safest option for her daughter, and the car showed that, while it may be high up with lots of airbags, it didn’t have the ability to avoid crashes. I let Shana and her mother come from a ride in my BMW X3 to show them the difference. She came back today in an X5 with her dad and was ecstatic to be back at the school and at how much better her new car handled and was able to avoid obstacles.

Francine had never used ABS brakes before. Even though her car was brand new, she was terrified that she may break it if she slammed on the brakes. I got in the passenger seat with her and tried to calm her down. We went down the course, the head instructor, Judy Ray, yelled “brake!” and Francine braked. Her hands flew off the steering wheel, her head flew down, her eyes closed and she screamed for a few seconds. The parents got a good laugh out of it. Then she looked up, looked at the parents laughing, looked at me, and flashed her infectious smile that made it impossible not to like her. I told her, “See, look. We stopped. And we’re still in one piece.” The next time through she stopped without any of the theatrics, and now, she doesn’t have to experience ABS braking in an emergency situation where her initial reaction could be dangerous. She told me, “If I felt that pumping of the brake pedal on the road, I might have taken my foot off.” A crash waiting to happen, now avoided.

Camron was friends with a passenger who was killed in a crash where speed and inexperience proved to be a deadly

A students friend who was killed in a crash

A student's friend who was killed in a crash

combination. A Mustang GT driving by 18-year-old Mark lost control at high speed through a winding road. It spun and hit a tree, which nearly cut the car in two, killing both Mark and his 17-year-old passenger Zach. Many times stories like this have a silver lining in that they shatter the invincibility of others and save others lives, I feel that one of those lives saved was Camron’s. Camron was a very typical young male driver. He came in his modified, 6-speed, MINI Cooper S, and at one point I heard him talking about his speeding tickets. Learning how just a little speed can make the difference between maintaing control and sliding was a valuable lesson to him, a lesson that Mark and Zach unfortunately learned the hard way.

Irena was the sweetest thing in the world. You could have called her a sterotypical blonde for sure, but under that sterotype was a real passion to learn. She wanted to learn where everything under the hood was and even wanted to know where to get oil if she was low! I was very impressed with her. She was also completely terrified of driving, however. She was 17 with her permit. She originally got her permit when she was 15 1/2 but her first attempt at driving traumatized her so that she wouldn’t get behind the wheel for another two years.

Irena’s mother put her daughter in the driver’s seat and was standing outside the car with the door open. She told Irena to give the car some gas. I think she thought the car was in park, but it was not. Irena floored the car, knocking her mother over and hitting a wall. Her mom, pinned beneath the car, started screaming at her to back up. Irena figured out how to put the car in reverse, but in her panic, couldn’t find the brake. The car was stopped when it hit a fire hydrant behind her. Her mom ended up with a broken leg, but the scars the crash left with Irena were far deeper. At the end of the day, however, she was really coming out of her shell and realizing that she could do this, she could drive.

Michelle was our most a-typical student. She was 28 years old driving a beautiful manual E46 M3. She had decided to take the class because she was going to become a border patrol agent. She knew that part of the program was a driving course and she also knew that most everyone there would be male. Her goal was to be able to beat, at least, all the other women, so that she could prove herself to the guys. I think meeting Judy, an ex-professional race car driver who has beaten plenty of men, was good for Michelle’s misgivings about the abilities of female drivers. She ended up doing very well, and I hope to see her at the track soon.

The class was great and there were a lot of lessons learned that would have likely resulted in crashes if they were learned on the road. Francine’s ABS experience is a good example of that. We also had a few students who had trouble modulating how much to turn the steering wheel to go where they wanted. Once they got the hand-eye coordination down they became much better drivers. We also do an exercise where the teens pretend they are picking up and then talking on a phone. The difference in their abilities without the phone and with the phone are so shocking, that the teens really get it. One said, “I have enough I’m trying to focus on without the phone. With the phone, it is impossible!”

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Recap from yesterday’s class

Posted by lapearce on June 8, 2009

Students Cars all in a Row

Students' Cars all in a Row

We had a small class yesterday. This is becoming the norm in a year where we already had to cancel two classes from lack of enrollment. It’s the economy. This time last year the class was full. It saddens me when parents put their pocketbook before the safety of their children. If a defensive driving class helps a teen avoid one crash it has already paid for itself a number of times over.

Despite the smaller group, it was a good group. The majority of the drivers this month had their permits, and two of the girls had just barely started driving. They didn’t know the fundamentals of turning the steering wheel, using the gas or brake, let alone what the car, or they, were capable of doing.

In our first time down the course with one of the new drivers she started out with the steering wheel turned a bit. She gave it a little bit of gas and the car went off to the side. She just froze with her foot on the gas and her eyes locked straight ahead. I grabbed the steering wheel and told her to brake, then talked her into bringing the car back around. Because we were in a big, empty parking lot with nothing around this common beginner mistake was no problem. If it weren’t for classes like this, however, she could have learned that lesson on a busy road. It frightens me that we send out permitted drivers with no experience out there to learn on the road with everyone else. They need a calm, controlled environment to learn in, not the hectic, uncontrolled road.

At the other end of the spectrum we had a more experienced teen who was at the class to reel in an ego that was out of control behind the wheel. She thought she was God’s gift to driving. This is just as dangerous as the permitted drivers who didn’t know the first thing about steering wheel control. She was still inexperienced, but she thought she was experienced. At the end of the day she said, “With every cone I hit my ego deflated a little”. Good, goal reached.

All of the drivers made huge leaps and bounds of improvement through the course of the day. A girl afraid to hit her brakes learned the importance of ABS. The girl who couldn’t turn her car learned how much to turn the steering wheel based on the turn ahead. And the cocky girl lost her attitude.

Honorable mention also goes to one of our permitted drivers, Matt, who mastered his mom’s GM Yukon with expert skill. He had the highest hill to climb of all of our students because of how difficult his SUV is to drive, but he went into the class with a level head and was stellar at listening to what the car was telling him and not over working the car. Still, seeing such a small boy in such a large vehicle, I can’t help but wonder why parents continue to put their children in these dangerous SUVs. His mom is asking herself that same question as well. Matt may get another car before he turns 16. A smaller, lower, easier to handle one.

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Defensive driving class reduces crashes 63%

Posted by lapearce on June 6, 2009

Teen driver learns car control

Teen driver learns car control

Those of us who teach defensive driving to teens know that the classes save lives and prevent crashes, but so many of the organizations doing research on teen driving focus so much on the effectiveness of graduated driving licenses, that they typically ignore the effectiveness of defensive driving/car control classes.

The benefits of classes over laws, in my opinion, is they don’t take years to be put into place, they don’t rely on enforcement, and you can never take education away from a person.

The Meridian Police Department of Mississippi has seven years of experience teaching defensive driving and car care to teens. The week-long courses are limited to 20 students and focus on teaching teens how to avoid emergencies on the road, as well as basic car care.

Since the course has started, the police department has seen a sixtythree percent reduction in crashes among teen drivers.

For comparison, graduated driver’s licenses reduce crashes by nineteen percent.

These classes work better than laws. There need to be more programs like this available to more teens, this is the best way to save lives!

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