Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘driver’

The driver’s error factor to Toyota’s acceleration problem

Posted by lapearce on March 9, 2010

This Prius driver called 911 when his car accelerated up to 90mph, a police officer yelled at him to hit the brakes before stopping the car with his bumper

No one wants to be behind the wheel of a runaway car that accelerates on its own. Toyota’s brand is going to be damaged for years to come by this problem and their response to it. But there is an even bigger problem here than sticky accelerators: the drivers who lack the common sense to stop the cars themselves.

To clear the air on the point I’m trying to make: cars shouldn’t accelerate on their own. This problem shouldn’t exist in the first place and it is inexcusable that Toyota allowed so many cars to be made with this problem. But that doesn’t excuse the absolutely clueless drivers who can’t figure out how to put a car in neutral or slam on the brakes. The problem isn’t just with a worn pedal or a misplaced floor mats, it’s with how we are training our drivers and the amount of skills the average driver possesses.

As drivers we are becoming increasingly dependent on our cars to do things for us. We have anti-lock brakes to keep our brakes from locking up. Traction control to keep us from spinning out. Lane departure warnings to tell us when we are leaving our lane. Blind spot indicators to tell us when a car is next to us. Tire pressure monitors that tell us when our tires need air. Automatic transmissions that shift themselves and cruise control that lets the engine accelerate on its own. Plus hundreds of other little computers doing tasks that humans used to do. Not all technology is bad, ABS for example is great, but many of these features are dumbing down the driving population and leading to a generation of drivers who can’t even find neutral on a gear selector.

Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Institution is thinking about solving the problem by adding in yet another computer to do the job for us. The agency is considering mandating that all new cars have an override system where when you hit the brakes it overrides the gas. This technology will be the fatal shot to the already dying manual transmission. Goodbye downshifting, good bye fun, goodbye the last standout of drivers’ input in a world of cars that do everything for you. It is ridiculous and unnecessary too because hitting the brakes in a runaway Toyota will already stop the car.

We need to step up as a society and not just demand Toyota make safer cars, but demand that drivers be given the education they need to solve these problems without the addition of new nanny systems and government oversight. We need to raise voices in concern about all of the electronics that are in control of cars today and ask how necessary they are. Do they really help or are they hurting us by giving us an illusion of safety and reducing our skills to take control when the systems give it up?

No one should have died because of Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem. Everyone should have been able to put the car into neutral and hit the brakes. And if Toyota has some computer that doesn’t allow the driver of the car to do that—then that’s another problem all together.

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Ohio honors safe teen drivers with Lights for Life

Posted by lapearce on November 16, 2009

No, Ohio does not need to tell its drivers to turn their headlights on at night, most of them (hopefully) already know to do this. Ohio is actually trying to honor the increased safety of its teen drivers and to raise awareness of teen driving safety and the cause behind crashes involving teen drivers by asking Ohio drivers to keep their headlights on at all times in an effort they call “Lights for Life“.

Of course, most crashes caused by teen drivers aren’t due to a lack of headlights, so hopefully the point gets across.

Ohio is using this nifty little PR tactic in conjunction to Ohio’s first Youth Traffic Safety Summit held by SADD members. SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions, is a very important peer group that has been active in reducing crashes across the nation. The organization hopes to have 300 students and state legislators attend the summit.

39 percent of Ohio’s crashes were caused by young drivers (15-25)  in 2008. The leading causes were: following too close, failure to yield and excessive speed. Most crashes happen on the way home from school. So far in 2009 there have been about 65,500 crashes that involved young drivers, down from 70,000 this time last year.

So keep those headlights on in Ohio, but more importantly, remember why they are being kept on and if you are a parent, be an active part in your child’s driving education to ensure they aren’t 65,501 this year.

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Ford admits that costly blind spot system are pointless

Posted by lapearce on August 21, 2009

Volvo and Ford offers this. I think Mercedes does too. It drives me up the wall. In case you haven’t seen the ad it looks like this:

“Alex is about to collide with a motorcycle that is squarely in his blind spot…” but because his Volvo has the nifty Blind Spot Information System (BLIS because BSIS isn’t as catchy) system, he’ll be alerted to it and not kill the dumb motorcycle driver who is trying to pass him on the right when he has his turn blinker on. However, Alex wouldn’t need to rely on his fancy $700-$1,600 (cheaper on the Volvo than on a Ford believe it or not) dollar BLIS system  if he just adjusted his mirrors properly.

I can hear you getting mad already. But all cars have a blind spot, you are thinking. No, they don’t. In a New York Time’s interview Ford’s chief safety engineer, Steve Kozak, says that proper adjustment of the side mirrors illuminates blind spots. But adds, most drivers don’t adjust their mirrors that way so BLIS is a valuable safety aid.

Steve Kozak, Ford’s chief safety engineer, acknowledged that side mirrors can be set to eliminate the blind zone. But most drivers don’t adjust their mirrors that way so BLIS is a valuable safety aid, he said.

Que the head banging.

The problem starts when we are 15 1/2 and we are sitting in driver’s ed. And the instructor, who we all assume knows what he’s talking about because someone said he could  teach us all how to drive, teaches us SMOG: signal, mirror, over the shoulder, go, as the proper way to change lanes. Why look over your shoulder trusty driving instructor? One may ask. Why, he says, to check your blind spot. But why is there a blind spot trusty driving instructor? Because the DMV says so.

On page 12 of the handbook designed to help parents teach their teens how to drive in California it clearly says that to change lanes you need to “check your blind spot by looking over your shoulder” In the section on page 5 about preparing to drive it has one line about mirrors, and that is, “adjust the mirrors” but how? The DMV doesn’t say. The DMV doesn’t tell teens the proper way to adjust their mirrors so that they don’t have a blind spot, because the DMV in all its infinite wisdom doesn’t believe it is possible. All they’d have to do is adjust the mirrors as columnist Christopher Jensen explains in the article and see that the blind spot is gone. But that would probably mean getting a multi-million dollar grant to confirm. Gotta love bureaucracy.

Drivers think that blind spots exist because they were taught they exist when they were learning how to drive. Better information from licensing organizations would solve this problem.

Steve is right. There is no blind spot if the mirrors are properly adjusted. Ford (who owns Volvo in case you didn’t know) could have saved millions in research and development if instead of developing a camera that flashes a red light when ever a car is next to you instead they produced a small pamphlet on how to adjust the mirrors and distributed it to all their dealerships. The salespeople could be taught how to adjust mirrors and as they teach the buyer all the features of their new car help them adjust their mirrors. Problem solved for the cost of 2 minutes of a salesperson’s time.

Of course, if you still don’t believe me that blind spots are myths (I would love to come adjust your mirrors and prove you wrong and highly suggest you try the method mentioned in the article for yourself) I offer you the less expensive option to solve them. The two dollar blind spot mirror. Now go take that 700 you saved on your BLIS system and send it at on a quality driving school.

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Does green mean go?

Posted by lapearce on August 11, 2009

We’ve all heard this saying before… typically as we yell it at other drivers who don’t get on the gas when the light turns green fast enough. But does green really mean go? Sure it sounds nice with its alliteration and quick to the point wording, but it unfortunately is not accurate. While not as piffy or repeatable, green actually means look and proceed with caution.

Too often do I see people who hit the gas at a green light with their eyes focused straight ahead. What if someone was running that light? They wouldn’t know until after they were hit. About two years ago I witnessed a red light crash where the truck in front of me ran a very red light at an intersection for a very busy freeway off ramp. She was so late in entering the intersection that she hit the third and fourth car in the line. I honked, which was the only thing that prevented another car from being involved (the driver thanked me for warning her) but the two cars involved didn’t even see her coming. They felt the intersection was safe, after all, other cars had already passed through, who could run a light that late?

Actually, a lot of people do. The National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running claims that 900 people were killed in 2007 because someone ran a red light. How many of those crashes could have been avoided if instead of going when the light turned green people looked first? Of course, all of them could have been avoided if people actually paid attention, slowed down and stopped at red lights. But remember: you aren’t everyone on the road. Common sense to you isn’t common sense to everyone.

When I witnessed the red light crash the woman who ran the red started to stop, but then instead got on the gas. She hit the brakes again just before hitting the cars. Maybe she was drunk or on drugs. Maybe she saw the light at the next intersection and thought she had the green. Maybe she was just a bad driver. There are a lot of bad drivers out there. Never assume that other drivers will obey the laws. If you are hit by a red light runner they are at fault… but wouldn’t you rather see them first, stop, and not be involved in the crash in the first place?

Here is a compilation of red light crashes/close calls that I recently found. Some of them are comical (I did laugh when the two white Ford Explorers hit and one of them tipped over and the near miss at 3:12 is incredibly lucky) but others are frightening and very serious. You will notice just how red some of the lights are when the people run them. Crashes like these happen every day. To avoid being involved in a crash like this remember: green does not mean go, it means look and proceed with caution.

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