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’s education’

It’s Teen Safe Driving Week in California

Posted by lapearce on March 22, 2010

I started this week in San Diego, teaching 60 teens how to be safe drivers at a Teens Driving for Life event. It was a great that was sponsored by San Diego Supervisor Bill Horn, San Diego Sheriff, CHP and orchastrated by my nonprofit, Driving Concepts Foundation. I sat down with one of the Sheriff officers during the day and asked him what he thought of the event. He said it was great and, “ever teen should be required to take a course like this”. That was great to hear coming from someone like a police officer. He wasn’t the only one with that opinion either. The parents were extraodinarily greatful for what their children learned and the teens left with capable and confident in their skills.

It was a great way to start off Teen Safe Driving Week.

Teen Safe Driving Week is an awareness campaign that was started by Impact Teen Driving and made possible by Senator Alan Lowenthal and Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani.

“It is crucial that we educate teens and empower them to promote the safe driving message in order to have a fundamental and sustained behavior shift,” said Dr. Kelly Browning, executive director of Impact Teen Drivers. “This isn’t about bad kids doing bad things, but good kids making poor choices. One poor choice can alter or end their lives and the lives of those they care about.”

The organization’s idea of educating and empowering teens is with peer-to-peer education, which has shown to have a significant impact on teen drivers. It is asking teens to develop messages to promote safe driving among their peers. The event is also launching a contest to develop software that turns phones off while driving when the driver enters *65, for *65 to stay alive. Get it, it rhymes.

]I hope there is a driving component to next year’s event. It is great to talk to people about the problem and to get teens involved to talk to each other about the problem, but talking doesn’t help when a car is out of control. Driving skills and car control is what can bring an out of control car back in control safely. Speed management, space management, being aware of what is happening around you and being able to recognize dangers can help prevent that car from going out of control in the first place.

Dr. Browning is right, this isn’t about bad kids doing bad things, but about good kids making poor choices. We need to show them how to make the right decisions by getting in the car with them and showing them what to do in a safe, controlled environment.

Hopefully Senator Lowenthal or Assemblymember Galgiani will agree with me. Heck, Driving Concepts Foundation will even put on the event 🙂

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Teen driving laws aren’t enough to save lives

Posted by lapearce on February 7, 2010

Teen driver was following all teen driving laws when he struck a school bus last Tuesday, killing his sister

At any given time in this country there is a state considering a new teen driving law. Most of these laws restrict what teen drivers can do with the intent of protecting the new drivers. Of course, many teens and parents see these laws as discriminating or “unfair” to “safe” drivers. While I would prefer that state governments took their focus off of driving laws and instead focused their time, money and resources on driver’s education, all of the restrictions they pass are aimed at saving lives, not singling out new drivers.

Take for example Florida’s current attempt to ban new driver’s from carrying passengers. This seems to be the law that has the most resistance from teens and parents. Parents take advantage of their child’s new mobility to have them shuttle around friends, siblings, teammates, etc or be the ones being shuttled around– paying them back for sixteen years of being a taxi driver for their kids. Teens, on the other hand, love to ride with their friends and don’t like giving up this privilege.

One girl interviewed for the Florida law said she felt the law was unfair for responsible teens. The problem here isn’t responsibility, it’s a lack of knowledge, experience and attention plus peer pressure. Even the best drivers can be distracted by other people in the car– I can still be after years of driving– and when you lack experience it can be deadly. Teens are much more likely to crash when they have friends in the car and they are also more likely to drive dangerously.

Because of peer pressure teens are less likely to buckle up when they have other teen passengers. I guess it isn’t cool to save your own hide in a crash. They are also more likely to speed and drive aggressively as they show off their driving skills to their un-belted friends and younger siblings.

However, we can’t rely on laws to solve this problem. Police consistently report that it is difficult to enforce passenger laws. You can’t tell by looking at a driver whether or not they’ve been driving for a month or a year, or whether their passenger is a sibling or a friend. Because of that, most new drivers are cited only if they are pulled over for breaking another law. The solution to this problem isn’t laws, its through the knowledge and enforcement of parents.

No matter how convenient it is to have your teen play taxi driver for his/her friends and no matter how convenient it is to have your teen get a ride from another teen driver, as parents you have to know when to say no. Use common sense: don’t let your teen have passengers if they are new to driving and don’t let him/her ride with anyone who hasn’t had their license for at least six months (preferably a year). Take time into consideration as well, don’t let your child drive/ride in a car late at night when there are more drunks on the road and the driver is likely fatigued.

Also, learn about the friend your teen is getting a ride with. Do they have any tickets? Have they been in a crash? Are they responsible drivers? Talk to your teen about peer pressure, using a seat belt and encourage them to speak up if the driver is being irresponsible. Set an agreement with your child that if they don’t feel safe with a driver that you will pick them up– no matter where they are.

Even if teenagers are following the laws of the state it doesn’t mean they are immune from a crash. Last week a fifteen-year-old girl was killed in Colorado when her sixteen-year-old brother pulled his car in front of a school bus. It was legal for the boy to transport his sister and the fourteen-year-old neighbor also in the car, but for what ever reason– whether it be distraction, not seeing the bus or fog on the window during the cold morning, passenger restriction laws were not enough to save a life.

I’ve heard many parents say that they won’t let their teen ride with any teen driver who hasn’t taken a defensive driving course. This is an excellent idea that I completely support. Education is the key here. You can’t overcome many of the challenges of age and experience that teen drivers face, but you can significantly increase their chances of survival through a defensive driving/accident avoidance course. These classes show teens the dangers on the road, what distractions do to their reaction time and their driving abilities and the abilities of their cars– where are often times grossly over estimated by new drivers. No law can make up for experience.

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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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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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Surprise, surprise: more drivers training reduces crashes

Posted by lapearce on November 18, 2009

Ever read a headline with a statement that is such common sense that you almost wonder why it was written at all? “Exercise makes people healthier” or “Students who do homework excel in school” how about “Teen driver injuries reduced by graduated drivers licensing“.

Graduated drivers licenses are spreading to most states in the Union. The program includes higher amounts of behind-the-wheel training, restrictions on night driving and passengers, higher minimum age for receiving a permit or license and stricter penalties for teens who break laws during the provisional period. The purpose of the programs is a three hit combo of better education, reducing the causes of crashes and incentives to follow the laws. Nation wide, the programs decrease crashes by about 19 percent and actually save states money. Despite this, not all states have GDL requirements.

A study done by the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Injury Research Center in Milwaukee and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin studied GDL requirements and five years of crash data from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, OThio and Wisconsin. It found that more than 300 deaths and over 21,000 injuries could have been prevented if the states had better GDL programs.

The changes the team feels could have saved these lives  are:

1. Minimum age of 16 years for obtaining a learner’s permit

2. A holding period of at least six months after obtaining a learner permit before applying for intermediate phase

3. At least 30 hours of supervised driving

4. Minimum age of 16.5 years for entering the intermediate phase

5. No unsupervised driving at night after 10 p.m. during the intermediate phase

6. No unsupervised driving during the intermediate phase with more than one passenger younger than 20 years

7. Minimum age of 17 years for full licensure.

These requirements are recommended by AAA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

It found that more than 300 deaths and over 21,000 injuries could have been prevented if the states had better GDL programs.

With all of this evidence that the programs work, why do so few states require all of the recommended components in their GDL program? It seems so simple: tighten restrictions on new drivers, save their lives. I feel the problem is that people don’t understand that there is a problem, there for, they aren’t interested in the solution.

Many parents are unaware of the dangers of teen driving, or if they are aware, they think their child is different. Then you have law makers who don’t want to enact laws that they themselves don’t abide by (proof by the New York legislature voting down seat belt legislation because many of them don’t wear seat belts). On top of all of that you have citizens who are wary of laws and government controls and others with the inaccurate idea that driving is a right, there for, it cannot be restricted… try that one when you are pulled over for driving drunk and see how it goes.

In order to save lives by getting more states to fully enact GDL and more importantly to increase their drivers training to include more than just the rules of the road and basic car operation we need to inform people of the problem that exists. If people understood that there was a problem and if they understood the solution we’d be more likely to do something about it.

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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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Care about the dangers of teen driving before it effects you

Posted by lapearce on August 10, 2009

“Lance Armstrong didn’t care about cancer research until after he had cancer.”

When my sister told me this I couldn’t help but laugh at the ignorance of the comment. “Of course not,” I told her, “we only care about things until after they effect us.”

This is sad but true. Of course Lance Armstrong didn’t care about cancer research until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I bet he similarly gave little consideration to heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS or a myriad of other disorders that debilitate and kill millions each year. Similarly, a large portion of the foundations set up to inform parents and teens about the dangers of driving were set up by parents after they lost their child in a car crash.

Journey Safe was started by the parents of Gillian Sabet after their daughter was killed in a crash on her way to prom

Professional drag racer Doug Herbert started B.R.A.K.E.S. after he lost his two teen sons in a crash

Maxwell’s Pledge was created after her son was killed as a passenger in a high speed crash

Even this blog was created because I lost a wonderful neighborhood girl to a crash on December 8, 2005, a crash that I know would have been avoided with better driver’s education. Which is why I share what I have learned as a driving instructor in hopes that I can save the life of a young driver.

Doug Herbert, the founder of B.R.A.K.E.S.  said he was unaware of the dangers of teen driving until after he lost his 17 and 15 year old sons in a crash. Even though he was a professional driver he didn’t know that car crashes are responsible for 35% of teen fatalities.

A survey by Allstate found that 88% of parents think that their teen is a good driver, even though most agree that teens drive poorly. Some of these parents will learn the hard way what dangers await their young drivers. Only then will they care. Perhaps they too will start a foundation and desperately attempt to inform other parents before they too learn the hard way.

Why does it have to be this way? Car crashes kill over 5,000 teens every year. Please, for the sake of your child’s life start caring now, before it is too late.

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Senator aims to improve teen driver education

Posted by lapearce on July 23, 2009

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has set his eye on drivers education reform when many people in Congress are engrossed on “reforming” other things. Sen. Schumer has proposed a bill that would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a curriculum that includes in-class and in-car lessons, and create a grant program to fund local classrooms that use the program.

The program is meant to be supplemental to existing programs, now would not be required for a license. Schumer says he hopes that parents, schools and churches will encourage involvement. I wonder how successful that would be.

Also, it is not clear how this program would fit in with another act trying to solve the teen driving problem called STANDUP, which would require all states to have the same teen driving laws. Schumer is not an author of that act so I am unsure of what his stance is on it since it has yet to be debated or voted on. A search of his Web site came up with no mention of STANDUP or his opinion on it.

The cost of the program is an estimated $25 million a year, a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $36 billion teen car crashes cost the society in 2006. But I want to make sure the money is spent right: in creating a truely good curriculum that fully addresses the flaws in the current system and fixes them. It needs to have a defensive driving component and it needs to involve parents. Otherwise, it’s just throwing money away (government’s favorite past time).

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Study finds teens like to learn the hard way while driving

Posted by lapearce on July 21, 2009

A recent study by the George Institute for International Health out of Australia found that teens often times do not listen to the warnings given to them in driver’s education and instead insist on learning the hard way out on the road. The study found that driver’s education does not encourage teens to drive safely and only the fear of repercussions (i.e. tickets) will force teens to drive safely.

“No one has been able to demonstrate any really good safety benefits in driver education in giving people information about risk.” said Associate Professor Rebecca Ivers.

I agree with Ivers. Yes, I am a driving instructor and I agree with her that driver education does not give people information about risks. That is because it doesn’t, and that is why I do not teach for a DMV approved school, but for a non-profit that focuses on teaching what the risks are, why they exist and what drivers can do to avoid them.

Current DMV drivers education is absolutely worthless in this country. We tell teens what to do and what not to do, but we don’t show them the why. Failing to give proper explanation or illustration for the rules we expect them to follow just encourages them to push the envelope, in my opinion.

I don’t think we can rely on the police to encourage teens to drive safety either. There aren’t enough of them to enforce the laws to make that big of an impact, especially now as budget cuts are hitting every level of government. Teens need to be afraid of their parents as well. Parents NEED to be able to wield control over their teens with clearly laid out rules and punishments for not following them. Here is a great article in the Examiner about one inattentive teen with a lead foot, and parents who would not enforce the rules they set to protect her from herself.

Everyone who is involved in teen driving knows that the current driver’s education isn’t up to par. But at the same time, states that don’t require driver’s ed have more crashes than states that do require it. It obviously has some impact on how new drivers act on the road, but it can have so much more. We need to mandate car control/defensive driving in our driver’s education classes! We need to show teens the risk so that they don’t find it on their own.

Currently Congress is looking to enact STANDUP, a law that would have nation-wide teen driving laws, instead of on a state-by-state basis right now. This law does not have any provision for defensive driving training. Please write the authors of STANDUP and your representatives (link on right hand side) and urge them to look into this as a way to fix our broken driver’s education.

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