Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘fatal crash’

Is showing off worth your life?

Posted by lapearce on February 17, 2010

Today I saw my second dead body. The first was in a small, mining town called Trona California. The road turned left, a driver went straight and was ejected from the car. I’m fairly certain it was a drunk driving crash. The second, today, happened when a woman showing her car to a potential buyer hit a tree outside my office at a great amount of speed. She was killed instantly and the interested buyer was injured, luckily he’s going to be OK.

The car was a modified Corvette with a lot of power. The office building is on a curvy road that is popular with test drivers. She didn’t even make it through the first turn. She was obviously showing off and it cost her her life. All because she wanted to impress a potential buyer.

A lot of crashes, especially with younger drivers, happen because the driver is showing off. A lot of people overestimate their driving abilities. When all you do is drive in normal, on-road situations you can’t possibly accurately assess your abilities when you push a car. If all you do is walk, how do you know how fast you can run?

That is why you should never push your car on public streets. There are tracks out there and courses you can take if you want to see what you and your car can do. The benefit of these courses is there typically aren’t any trees or parked cars or buildings right next to them for you to hit. If you lose control you’ll likely get out of it unscathed, this can’t be promised on the open road.

A fatal crash is always tragic. We can never bring back the life that was lost, but we can honor their life by learning from what happened and trying to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes. Please, be safe on the road today, and save the fast stuff for the track. Trust me, you probably aren’t as awesome of a driver as you think you are. I’d happily help you see that on a closed course.

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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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Worst driving invention ever?

Posted by lapearce on November 23, 2009

Worst idea ever?

Have you ever been driving in your car and think, “wow, this trip would be so much better if I had a desk where I could read or write while I drive?” Apparently some guy with half a brain and enough money to make this a reality did. The result is the laptop steering wheel desk, quite possibly the worst driving aid ever invented.

Is it just some elaborate joke? No, it’s not. First it takes money to put something on Amazon, secondly, the makers, Mobile Gear, have an actual Web site where you can buy it as well.

I’m going to take this out of the hoax category and firmly in the bad-ideas-that-actually-exist category right next to the Snuggie and the the Big Top Cupcake Maker (easily worst problem-solution commerical on TV right now). The big difference is that you don’t risk your life by wearing an over sized backwards robe or by making ridiculously big cupcakes. Unless, of course, you trip on the robe or get heart disease from the cholesterol in the cupcakes, but you would be risking your life every time you used the laptop steering wheel desk.

I cannot imagine why anyone would think this was a good idea. Distracted driving killed about 6,000 people in 2008. This is more than all of the teen driving deaths in the United States that same year. Distracted driving, or inattention, is one of the major causes of crashes in the United States.

So lets put a desk on people’s steering wheel that allows them to multitask while they drive… brilliant!

Luckily, many of the people who found the Laptop Steering Wheel Desk on Amazon realized it was a bad idea. They blanketed the site with false reviews and photos that pointed out the inherent danger of the device. Here are some of my favorites:

"Even works in super luxury GT cars. Desk floats to keep your expensive electronics dry."

"I gave these out as gifts to people in the office. The best part was we could all browse the web while waiting for the emergency crews to arrive."

"Makes driving and working a breeze"

"Enhances social networking"

“Wow is this thing great! I use it as a “mini-bar” when the friends and I go out to the bars. I can quickly fix multiple shots of tequila for myself and the friends as we drive from one bar to the next.!”

“One cautionary note be careful of those jerks that stop at yellow lights, my poor mother rear ended one and the airbag drove the desk back into her stomach which ruptured her spleen, well after a short down time I’m glad to say she is back on the road and cranking out those NY Times crosswords once again. Thanks Laptop Steering Wheel Desk you have made my mothers life more complete.”

“This product is so awesome for freeway driving and makes reloading your handgun while changing lanes a breeze. The only thing missing is a cupholder for my tequila. I attached a pen on a string to mine to mark my hits and misses.”

If you would like to tell the manufacturer of this product that they are complete morons, please call:

Mobile Gear

1-866-856-7000

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Connecticut police release video of crash that killed two teens

Posted by lapearce on November 18, 2009

 

Screen shot of video where one police car is passing the other. Note the speed is 66mph

This is a horrible situation.  On June 13 of this year a police dash cam recorded a crash between another police car and a vehicle with two teens in it. The two cruisers were driving over 70mph in a 40mph zone without lights or sirens and while they were not responding to any call. The officers got to an intersection with a flashing red (to be treated like a stop sign) and flew through it without so much of a blip of the lights or a tap of the brakes. The teen driver, who likely assumed that the approaching cars would stop like they were supposed to or who was unable to judge the distance at that speed, turned in front of one of the police officers and was t-boned.

 

Ashlie Krakowski and David Servin, both 19 years old, were killed in the crash. Now, six months after the crash, questions are finally being answered and justice is being served. The police officer who hit the teens has been charged with two counts of second degree manslaughter and the other police officer is being investigated as well. I hope he loses his job.

This horrible tragedy reminds us that we never know what may happen on the road. Who would expect an officer in charge of protecting, serving and enforcing laws would blatantly break them and take two lives in the process? How many times do you enter an intersection thinking that the other cars are going to stop like they are supposed to? The road is full of surprises and unexpected events can happen at any time.

My deepest condolences to the families of the young adults killed in the crash. To everyone else: please, be safe and aware out there.

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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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Teens still text while driving

Posted by lapearce on November 16, 2009

A car gets a flat tire in the passing lane of a freeway. The driver puts the hazards on, but five other cars still manage to hit the disabled vehicle causing a pile up. This crash wasn’t caused by text messaging, but the one a mile back in the traffic caused by the pile up was.

17 year old Laurie Cartwright was likely distracted by a text message when she hit the tractor-trailer in front of her that was stopped in traffic from the crash caused by the disabled car a mile up the road. The crash took Laurie’s life. In fact, last year nearly 6,000 people died from distracted driving, many from cell phone/texting.

Last year nearly 6,000 people died from distracted driving.

Screen shot from the gruesome UK PSA on texting while driving

Laurie’s story is one that is shared by many people across the United States. Yet despite personal experience, the wide-spread acknowledgment that texting while driving is dangerous, and even gory PSAs warning against the practice, a new study by the Pew Institute shows that one-in-three teens text while they drive. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Similar studies done in specific states such as Colorado and Texas have also shown even higher percentages of texting teens. If anything, the study should say “Texting while driving decreases among teen drivers.

A more disturbing fact found in the Pew study is that many teens confessed that they have seen their parents text while drive.  One teen said his dad drives “like he’s drunk. His phone is just like sitting right in front of his face, and he puts his knees on the bottom of the steering wheel and tries to text.” How can we expect our children to drive safely when this is the example we put before them?

The other problem here is the feeling of invincibility most teens have.

Try this experiment if you disagree with me. Ask any new driver how they think they compare to other drivers on the road. Chances are they will tell you that they are better than the average driver. You know, and I know, that based on the amount of experience they’ve had behind the wheel the chances of them being better than average are pretty slim, unless they are some driving prodigy. Despite this, most teens suffer from delusions of grandeur when it comes to their driving ability, and it shines through in the type of crashes they are involved in (typically caused by following too close, speeding and distractions.)

One teen in the Pew study said,  “I usually try to keep the phone up near the windshield, so if someone is braking in front of me or stops short, I’m not going to be looking down and hit them.” another said “it’s fine” to text and drive, and that he wears sunglasses while doing it “so the cops don’t see”

How do you overcome a false sense of skill and get it across to kids that what they are doing is bad? One thing to do is to show them how much texting does effect their awareness and reaction time. Unless you have professional driving instructors teaching this is best done outside of the car. Another option is to look at software that turns phones off while driving, such as Zoomsafer. Parents need to reenforce the dangers of this practice and set rules.

Here are some take aways from the Pew study:

  • 52 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who have cell phones say they have talked on their phones while driving.
  • 34 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 who text say they have done so while driving.
  • 48 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
  • 40 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 say they have been in a car when the driver “used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.”
  • 75 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 have a cell phone, and 66 percent of them send or receive text messages.
  • Boys and girls are equally likely to report to texting while driving.
  • Many teens blame the need to report their whereabouts to friends and parents as the reason for texting while driving.

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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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Teen driver killed while trying to save gas

Posted by lapearce on August 24, 2009

Tailgating semi trucks is a popular hypermiling technique. One false move and you will crash. Is it worth it?

Most hypermilers know that drafting is dangerous. One false move and you will crash. Is it worth it?

Hypermiling: the act of taking extreme measures to save gas. Some of the more extreme measures of this practice are very dangerous, such as “drafting” behind semi trucks, driving 20mph under the speed limit on the highway, or turning the car off while going down hill. All as an attempt to save a couple miles per gallon on the tank of gas.

These practices are dangerous, and for one young man in Australia  hypermiling cost him his life.

The teen turned the car off and took the keys out of the ignition before going through a bend. He had only had his license for a month and didn’t know that when the car is off the ignition is locked. Unable to steer, his car plowed into a semi truck, killing himself and taking off half the face of a passenger. Two other passengers were also injured in this crash.

Coroner Rod Chandler said, “I am satisfied that it occurred in this instance not because the deceased was being foolhardy or irresponsible but rather because of his ignorance of its effect upon his capacity to manage the vehicle.”

There is much more than needs to go into driver’s education than simply how to drive. How many parents think to discuss practical ways to increase fuel economy or what happens when the key is removed from the car with their teens? Hypermiling exists and teens may be influenced by the promise of astronomical high gas mileage, but at what price? Dangerous driving is dangerous driving no matter what your motive. Driving too close to trucks, much slower than traffic, over inflating your tires and turning off the car while it is moving exponentially increase your chance for a crash. If no one is hurt the irony is that the cost of your insurance deductible is probably more than the amount of gas you’d save in a year. If someone is killed because of it, then no amount of fuel saved makes it worth while.

Here are some tips on how to hypermile safely for the best mix of fuel economy and safe driving. Many of these tips (ie slower acceleration and getting ready to stop sooner) are safer too than getting on the gas or braking late, which reduces your ability to move out of the way or stop in an emergency.

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Update: teen driver of crash that killed four charged with nine criminal counts

Posted by lapearce on August 24, 2009

When I originally saw the news back in June about a roll over crash that took the lives of 3 (later 4) teens in Florida I was heart wrenched.  When I learned that the driver responsible for the crash was 15 and unlicensed I was left asking why.

This crash happened during the last day of school. Eight teens crammed into a Ford Explorer to go to the beach for a summer party.  The vehicle sat seven people with the optional third row, five if it did not have this option, and only the driver was wearing his seat belt. A tire blew and the young, unlicensed and inexperienced driver didn’t have the skills necessary to maintain control. The SUV flipped killing Kimber Krebs, 15, John Kiely, 15, Dennis Stout, 17, and Erin Hurst, 15. Four other teens were left in critical condition the family of one, Rebecca Pilkinton, was polite enough to update me on her condition and to mention that she went to another school that started summer break earlier, so she was not ditching. I hope her and the other teens are doing well and are recovering both physically and emotionally from the wreck that took the lives of their friends.

Today that unlicensed driver was charged with four counts of driving without a license involving death; four counts of driving without a license involving serious injury; and one count of careless driving. He faces a long prison sentence if he is convicted.

I don’t even know what to say about crashes like this. They are so tragic but also so avoidable. Even know I’m misting up as I write about these lives that were lost or ruined because of some bad decisions. In my original blog post I mentioned how so much went wrong, I still believe that. What if the teens had been wearing their seat belts? What if the tires were properly maintained and didn’t blow out? What if a licensed teen was driving? What if the kids had stayed in school instead of ditching? I would still like to know how the driver got the keys to the car. Was it a friend’s? Was it his family’s? Did he take it without permission or was he allowed to drive it? If one of these elements had been changed, I wonder if this crash would not have happened.

Parents, have you talked to your kids about seat belt use, passengers and the people they chose to ride with? If you haven’t you need to.

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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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