Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘gdl’

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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Texas has nation’s safest teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on July 28, 2009

The fatal crash rate in Texas decreased nearly 33 percent last year, more than double the national average. Texas has graduated driving laws, however 33 states are rated as having better GLD requirements than Texas. Also, states with similar laws did not have the same drop off in deaths as Texas did. So what is Texas’s secret? According to the Texas Transportation Institute the difference is peer programs.

These peer influence programs encourage positive peer pressure among teens. The program, “Teens in the Driver Seat” help teens teach each other about high-risk driving situations such as: night driving, drinking and driving, speeding and cell phone use.

250,000 Texas Teens have gone through the program, which motivates teens to become an active part of the solution by offering incentives to develop their own messages about safe driving. The full program currently costs Texas $1 million to run. The state has most likely saved far more than that from the reduced number of crashes.

Why do peer programs work? Alberto Torres, 17 says it well:

“Teenagers don’t always listen to adults… but we do listen to each other.”

It makes complete sense. One of the main reasons why passenger use is looked down upon for teen drivers is because of the possibility of negative peer pressure causing teens to engage in dangerous activities, such as speeding and not wearing their seat belts. If teens can have this negative impact on each other, why can’t they also have a positive impact. If it is cool to wear your seat belt or drive safety teens can be pressured into doing these things.

People who argue for the need of graduated drivers license will need to reassess their feelings after seeing what Texas has done. Texas has some of the weakest GDLs in the country. The state is also the only one in the nation to not require a behind-the-wheel test for new drivers and does not mandate formal driving education classes. For a fraction of the cost of what it would take to implement these programs Texas accomplished more by encouraging teens to help each other. It’s real food for thought for how we are handling the teen crash epidemic in this country. As I’ve been saying for a long time: simply telling teens what to do is not the answer.

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Connecticut DMV says teen driving laws are working

Posted by lapearce on July 24, 2009

Speeding convictions have dropped 43% over the past two years in Conn.

Speeding convictions have dropped 43% over the past two years in Conn.

Teen driving laws that took effect about a year ago in Connecticut seem to be making an impact. The DMV says there has been a drop in fatalities caused by teen drivers as well as a significant drop in convictions for driving-related offenses among teenagers.

The laws, which took effect last August, included stricter curfews for new drivers, more on-the-road training and tougher drunk driving penalties.

A recent study out of Australia showed that inforcement is a very good way to make teens follow laws. The fear of getting caught is more than the fear of dying among new drivers, it seems. These laws save lives and not enough states have them. However, just because a state has a shiney new graduated driver’s license law doesn’t mean that education should be shelved. Teaching teens how to drive is still far more important than just punishing them for making mistakes.

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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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Colorado sees a 44% decline in child/teen traffic deaths

Posted by lapearce on July 17, 2009

GDL and seatbelt use partially responsible for drop in deaths

Safety Advocates Gather to Share Ideas to Save More Young Lives

The number of children, teens and young adults, ages 0-20, killed in motor vehicle crashes in Colorado dropped 44 percent between 2003 and 2008. The greatest decline in deaths was among young people ages 15 to 20, which decreased 53 percent. The findings were announced in Denver today at the Colorado Motor Vehicle Safety Symposium: Protecting Our Children and Teens, sponsored by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

More children die from motor vehicle crashes than any other type of injury. In the United States each year, more than 7,000 children between the ages of 0-19 are killed in motor vehicle crashes and more than 600,000 are hospitalized for non-fatal injuries.
According to the CDC’s Childhood Injury Report, Colorado’s motor vehicle death rate for children ages 0-19 is 3.5 per 100,000, below the national average of 4.6. Colorado has the 18th lowest motor vehicle death rates for children ages 0-19.

“Without a doubt, the GDL laws have been critical in saving teen lives in Colorado by helping them ease into the driver’s seat by giving them time to learn to drive gradually without distractions from their peers,” said Col. James Wolfinbarger, chief of the Colorado State Patrol (CSP). ”The state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws also helped reduce teen deaths by setting limitations and requirements on new teen drivers, including a passenger restriction, a curfew and mandatory seat belts.”

Lindsey Myers, Injury Prevention Program manager with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said, “Colorado has made great progress in reducing the number of children and teens killed and injured in crashes, but we must continue to work together to find the best ways to educate parents, children and teens about motor vehicle safety.”

Myers credits some of Colorado’s success to increased collaboration across the state, including the development of the Teen Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance, a coalition of state agencies and private partners concerned about teen driving safety.

Another factor is the creation of Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Team Colorado, a statewide network of certified child passenger safety technicians across the state who educate parents and caregivers and sponsor child safety seat fit stations,” said CSP Corporal Eric Wynn, state coordinator for CPS Team Colorado. “It’s vital for parents and caregivers to be aware, not only of Colorado law, but what are the best safety practice recommendations from experts to keep their little ones safe in the car. There are constantly new parents to reach out to and educate, and we will continue to provide fit stations across the state to give parents a place to go for help.”

For more information about child passenger safety recommendations and to find a fit station, visit  For more information on Colorado’s teen driving laws and tips, visit  For more information about the leading causes of child injury and how they can be prevented, visit

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New York comes through with teen driving law!

Posted by lapearce on July 16, 2009

Crash caused by a cell phone

Crash caused by a cell phone

I had given up on New York after the legislature showed that they were more concerned with who was in charge than doing their job. However, late is better than never. Today, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would require 50 hours behind the wheel training (up from 20), require learning permits for six months, restrict non-relative teen passengers to one if no adult is in the car, as well as ban cell phones, texting and all other electronic use (including ipods) for all drivers. Gone, however, is the language that would not allow teens to bargain against speeding tickets. A seat belt requirement was removed from the bill earlier in the year.

This legislation is much needed in New York. I  don’t know how anyone could argue that texting while driving is safe. The restrictions on passengers and the increease in behind the wheel time will only help, not hurt. So why 57 percent of News Day readers think the current laws are good enough, that I don’t understand. I don’t think they realize how dangerous it is out there for new drivers. And that is part of the problem.

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Teen crash rate in Alabama is increasing

Posted by lapearce on June 24, 2009

The Alabama Highway Patrol found that teen crashes increased 22 percent from 2007 to 2008, injuries increased 17 percent and the fatality rate among new drivers increased 1 percent. At one level, a 22 percent increase in crashes with only a 1 percent increase in fatalities says that cars are getting safer, or teens are crashing in safer ways (ie more low speed collisions). On the other side of the coin, however, you have some numbers that don’t fit into this country’s insatiable fix to legislate every facet of new driving: from when you can drive, to who you can drive with, to what you can do while driving, laws that are supposed to reduce crashes and save lives.

Alabama in-acted graduated driver’s licenses in 2002 that restricted night driving from 12 a.m.- 6 a.m., restricted passengers to three, and suspended licenses for six months for anyone with a restricted driver who broke certain driving laws. Alabama is currently looking to further strengthen their laws that are weak by today’s standards. Even though Alabama has some restrictions on teen drivers, they don’t have the crucial building block to creating good driving habits:

They don’t require driver’s ed.

This is the theme of the week with news, it seems, as both Florida and Tennessee, states that also have very high fatality and crash rates among new drivers, are recognizing that the states’ lack of driver’s education is probably to blame.

In Alabama, programs that are available (but not required) are finding that the public is appathetic to the problem. One such program, Calhoun County School Dristric’s driver’s education, has been discontinued.

“We really didn’t feel like we had a lot of students interested in taking driver’s education this summer. Our numbers have been dwindling the last few years,” Donald Turner of the school district said.

Butch Wright, who has tought driver’s education in Alabama for 39 years, says education is vital to a teen’s saftey on

AL, TN, and FL all scored low on Allstates recent study of dangerous states for teens to drive in. They dont require drivers education

AL, TN, and FL all scored low on Allstate's recent study of dangerous states for teens to drive in. They don't require driver's education

the road. He also feels that it is important that the teen be taught by a professional, and not their parents. “It’s just easier for someone other than a parent to teach kids to drive. It’s very beneficial, and it takes the pressure off of parents that causes them to argue with their children,” Wright said.

With these three states all showing that a lack of driver’s education has a direct effect on the death rates of their drivers, I have to wonder why nothing is being done to stop it. At the very least why aren’t parents looking for education programs for their teens? And why are legislatures focusing on restrictions and not education? Restrictions, in my mind, are a lot like taking a child’s hand away from a hot pot and saying “no” but not telling them why not to touch the pot. You turn your head for a second and he’s reaching for the pot again, because he doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t touch it.

We need to teach new drivers why safe driving practices work.

(hat tip to ThinkB4YouDrive on twitter)

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Florida asks parents to do more with teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on June 23, 2009

Possible scenerio of parent & teen learning how to drive on Floridas web site

Possible scenerio of parent & teen learning how to drive on Florida's web site

Florida does not require teens to have any former driver’s education before they can obtain a license. The state also high on Allstate’s list of deadliest states for new drivers. So in response, the state is asking parents to do what it cannot: teach teens how to drive. It should be easy, because for many teens, parents are the only driving instructors they get in Florida.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles just added a portion to their teen driving web site designed to help parents help their new drivers. A little late to the party, but better late than never.

The page is designed more to inform parents of teen driving restrictions than to give them advice on how to teach their teens to drive. What information the site does have for parents is fairly basic and common sense, in my opinion, but I don’t think I should assume that everyone knows that you should come to a complete stop at stop signs, or look behind you when backing up. Lord knows so few people actually do these things on the road.

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Tennessee deaths increase after graduated driving laws

Posted by lapearce on June 23, 2009

Winding rural roads, low seatbelt use, and no drivers ed blamed for Tennessees teen crash rate

Winding rural roads, low seatbelt use, and no driver's ed blamed for Tennessee's teen crash rate

Tennessee passed graduated driving laws that restrict the hours teens can drive and the passengers they can have eight years ago. Regardless of this law, Tennessee is still the sixth deadliest state for new drivers, what’s more, Tennessee’s deadliest year for new drivers came in 2002, a year after the law was passed, when deaths jumped from 87 to 106.

Kendell Poole of the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration knows what the problem is: Tennessee has no requirement for driver’s ed. “If we had mandatory driver education, we would be able to reduce teen fatalities across the state.” She said.

Tennessee officials say that the state is probably dangerous due to the lack of required driver’s ed, poor seatbelt use among teens, and text messaging. They also point to the twisty rural roads as probably increasing teen deaths, which I agree with. Teens statistically are the worse at factoring speed and turning for curves and it is a common place for crashes involving new drivers.

Irwin Goldzweig, an assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville agrees that the answer is driver’s training: “It is like kindergarten — you have to have it because it provides the basic essentials.” He also points out that Florida, another state that doesn’t mandate driver’s education, is also very dangerous for new drivers.

I can’t believe any state out there allows teens to get a license without teaching them how to drive. It would be like teaching a kid how to play football by giving him a rulebook. Anyone who has played sports or have a child in sports knows that this isn’t the way to do it. Practice is the way to teach a child how to play sports.

Most pre-season sport camps set up to prepare new players for the game spend far more than 50 hours teaching children how to play with drills and practice games. I’ve asked driving students of mine who excelled in sports how long they thought it took before they would call themselves good at the sport they played. The typical answer is years.

Years spent learning how to do something that may pay for college or maybe, just maybe lead to a career. But driving is something that people do every day. It is the most dangerous thing for a teen to do and they are literally risking their lives every time they get behind the wheel. Yet we let them do this without any training?

We have lost our minds, and the death rate of Tennessee makes this obvious.

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My plea to Kansas: increase your driving age!

Posted by lapearce on June 21, 2009

Most states in the United States require teens to be sixteen before they can get their license. In some states, the age is lower, typically in agricultural states where children are needed to help on the farm. Now, let me just preface this right now: I live in Orange County California, not exactly farm country. I will let you know that I am ignorant to farm life and the activities required of teens in these communities.

Disclaimer aside, Kansas is one of those states with a ridiculously low age for getting a permit and license. Even though studies show the longer a teen waits to get his/her license, the safer they are on the road, Kansas still allows teens to get their permits, and even restricted licenses, at 14! The farm permit, as it is called, requires proof that the teen works on a farm that is 20 acres or larger, and that they go through the required driver’s training. Under the restricted license they can only drive: “to and from school (not school activities); to, from or in connection with any farm related work, or at any time when accompanied by a licensed adult driver 18 years of age or older.” 15-year-olds can also get a restricted driver for going to and from school or work with similar restrictions.

On Thursday six-year-old, Eduardo Moreno, was killed after he was thrown from a vehicle driven by a 15-year-old, Antonio Moreno, who I assume had one of these restricted driver’s license. The teen lost control of the vehicle and it flipped. Even though both boys were wearing their seatbelts Eduardo was ejected. He later died at the hospital, where Antonio is still recovering.

While crashes like this can happen at any age, they are just more likely when the teen is younger. Kansas is having new laws taking effect next January that will greatly improve the driving laws in Kansas. For example, right now 16-year-olds can get a license without ANY formal education or in time driving, next year they will need to take a written and driving test, or simply show proof that they completed driver’s ed. However even with these lukewarm, but needed, improvements, 14-year-olds will still be able to get farm permits in Kansas, and 15-year-olds will be able to get restricted licenses.

14 is simply too young. I’m sure there are plenty of good arguments from the farm community to allow children to receive licenses this young, but it is just too young.

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