Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘graduated drivers license’

An open letter to the lawmakers of Nebraska in regards to teen driving laws

Posted by lapearce on February 7, 2010

Recently Nebraska introduced LB831 which would allow some fourteen-year-olds to drive to school. I am adamantly against allowing children this young to drive because of the inherent dangers. The argument for the bill is that it will save parents time. The argument against the bill is that it will cost young drivers their lives. This is the letter I have just sent to Sentator Utter, who introduced the bill, and the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. If you agree that it is dangerous to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive please send them a letter too.

Email addresses:

dutter@leg.ne.gov; fischer@leg.ne.gov; kcampbell@leg.ne.gov; tgay@leg.ne.gov; ghadley@leg.ne.gov; cjanssen@leg.ne.gov; slautenbaugh@leg.ne.gov; llouden@leg.ne.gov; astuthman@leg.ne.gov

Dear Senator Utter,

My name is Lauren Pearce, I am a teen driving instructor out of California and I am writing to urge you not to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive in your state. In the article I read on the bill you have proposed you mentioned that there hasn’t been much opposition to your bill other than “safety concerns raised about having more young drivers on the road.” I am here to offer some more reasons against letting children this young out on the road the most important one being saving the lives of young Nebraskans.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America. Each year over 5,000 teens lose their lives in accidents; more than murder, suicide or drugs. Yet, for some reason, most people in the United States are completely unaware of this fact. For example, last year 4,000 Americans died of swine flu compared to 5,000 teens in car crashes, but which epidemic received more coverage? The sad thing is: teen driving deaths are just as avoidable as flu deaths if lawmakers, state DMVs and parents were to become aware of the problem and the solution that is out there.

The younger a teen driver is the more likely they are to be killed while driving. Teens who drive at fourteen are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sixteen-year-old. Sixteen-year-olds in turn are more likely to crash than seventeen-year-olds, who are more likely to crash than eighteen-year-olds. The chances of being involved in a crash steadily decreases with age as drivers gain maturity. If you compare a crash risk of a sixteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old who have both been driving for the same amount of time, the eighteen-year-old will be safer and less likely to crash because of their increased maturity over the sixteen-year-old. To let fourteen-year-olds out on the road knowingly with the maturity level they possess isn’t just a safety concern for other drivers: it is murder.

I have a fifteen-year-old sister. I am very aware of the maturity level of children this age. My sister is a good student; she is mature for her age and has friends that are beyond her in years. But I would not hand her the keys to a 2-ton vehicle capable of triple digit speeds and say “go drive to school”. Because I love my sister and I want her to make it to sixteen.

Parents who allow teens as young as fifteen and fourteen to drive do so because they are unaware of the risks associated with letting teens of this age out on the road. I’m aware that Nebraska is a rural state and that many children have long distances to travel to school. So what’s next? Do we allow eight-year-olds to drive to save parents the hardship of driving them to elementary school? It parents can drive thirteen-year-olds to school why can’t they also drive fourteen-year-olds?

I grew up in a rural community far from the local high school. I woke up at 5:00AM very morning to get on the 6’o-clock bus to school. The bus would finally reach campus an hour and a half later. Every afternoon I did the same trip in reverse and typically didn’t get home until about 4:00PM even though class was out around 2:00. I did this day in and day out without any other options because in California you cannot drive until you are sixteen. Never did I or my parents consider attempting to change the law just to make it more convenient for us.  We endured like everyone else. I do not see how this should be any different in another state.

I cannot muster even an ounce of sympathy for the parents who want this law, because they are unaware of the potential harm they are bringing to their children. Setting up a carpool or taking your child to school is a far better alternative than having your flesh and blood killed in a car crash because they lack the experience and knowledge to operate a motor vehicle. Is that really worth the time saved for a parents?

I’m not sure if you are aware, but last month a third party organization, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, released its yearly review of states’ teen driving laws. Nebraska was dead last on the list with only 6.5 teen driving laws. In comparison the leader, the District of Columbia, has 13.5 laws.  DC also has a lot less teen fatalities than rural states like Nebraska, one of the reasons being the increased driving laws. Instead of attempting to improve your state’s standing and moving up this list, your law will only save Nebraska’s spot as the worst state for teen drivers for next year. It will cost the lives of teenagers as well as other motorists and make your state more dangerous and more deadly.

Laws alone cannot save lives. What we need is better driver’s education and parental involvement. Defensive driving courses where teens are put behind the wheel of real cars on a closed course are the best way to save lives. At these classes teens are taught maneuvers that will help them avoid crashes and also become aware of their limits as drivers and the limits of their vehicles. It is so much safer for a teen to learn his/her abilities when the only item he/she can hit is a cone, not a tree or another car. The benefits of programs that teach these skills in this way have been confirmed by AAA and other organizations; it’s unfortunate that more lawmakers aren’t aware of the benefits of defensive driving classes.

Parental involvement also reduces crashes significantly. Connecticut has had a lot of success with its new mandated two-hour education class for parents. I suggest that Nebraska also bring parents into the education process and help them understand the risks and challenges of new drivers and how they can help protect their teen through involvement.

Teen car crashes cost states millions of dollars each year. Better education, laws and parental involvement will save money as well as lives. Please, before you allow more young drivers on the road educate yourself to the dangers it will bring to them and other drivers and decide of the ends really justify the means in this case: http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Teen_Drivers/index.html

Thank you for your consideration,

Lauren Pearce

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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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Texas: new teen driving laws take effect Sept. 1

Posted by lapearce on August 23, 2009

Texas has received low ratings on its teen driving laws in the past, but dispite this, the state has very safe drivers due in part to an extensive peer-to-peer program. Texas wants to help the chances of its young drivers even more by adding more restrictions on their driving during the first years they are on the road.

Effective next week Texas teens will be required to take a driving test before receiving their license. This is the norm in most other states. Restricted license time will also increase from the first six months to a year. Under the restricted license teens cannot drive at night, talk on the cell phone or have multiple passengers. Behind the wheel requirements will also increase from 14 hours to 32.

All of the new restrictions that Texas is implementing fall below the recomendations by the NHTSA and the average of most states. For example, in California the restricted license lasts for two years or until the teen is 18 and teens are required to receive 50 hours behind the wheel.

Here’s the question: if Texas teens are already among the nation’s safest with the state’s poor GDL requirements, what does that say about GDL? Is Texas a case study for why these laws aren’ the most effective way to save lives? Or, do we need to err on the side of caution and do what ever is neccessary to reduce crashes?I only worry that we’ll see GDL as a cop out and won’t look at other options becuasae we feel like we are already doing all that we can to solve the problem while we aren’t.

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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.

Posted in Graduated Driver's Licenses, Studies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How much behind the wheel training is enough for new drivers?

Posted by lapearce on July 24, 2009

In the United States we have varying requirements for behind the wheel training for new drivers. Some states require 25, others 30, but the best states require 50. These requirements all pale in comparison to Australia’s mandated 120 hours of behind the wheel training. However, Barrie Sinclair, professional driver and driving instructor, argues that it isn’t nearly enough time for drivers to become confident behind the wheel.

I have heard it say that it takes five years before someone becomes an average driver. Not Mario Andredi, just a good enough driver as the rest of the bad drivers out there. Five years. So Mr. Sinclair has a great point that 120 hours, or five days, of experience, is not nearly enough to equipt teens with the knowledge they need to be safe on the road.

One of the biggest problems, he finds, is that many teens don’t drive the 120 hours that are required. A survey of 1300 Australian teens found that 40 percent lied, or knew someone who lied, about their hours. Sound familiar mom and dad? We do it here too for a third of the hours.

The other problem, says Sinclair, is inexperience.

“They tend to think that they are bullet-proof and 10-feet tall… Virtually all of them come to see me when they are nearing the end of their 120 hours and tell me they are going for their license in three weeks and that they will get it. I don’t think they are ready but then they go for their test and they get given a license.”…

“As soon as they get their license they take off on a trip to Sydney or down the coast… They have not had any life experience outside of their 120 hours, which is nothing. It’s scary and it needs to be addressed.”

Mr. Sinclair thinks the problem needs to be addressed with more education and yes, more training. He wants driver education to be in high school cirriculum and required time in the car with a driving instructor, which Australia currently doesn’t have a law on. He thinks that boiling down education to a piddly 120 hours of in-car training has killed driver’s education in Australia.

More education comes at a cost. I feel that is one of the biggest reasons why more education isn’t required in the United States, Australia or many other countries where the love for the road and the mindset that driving is a right and not a privilage, overshadows the want to create good, safe drivers. Here in the United States, where the best states require less than half of the drive time Australia requires for permitted drivers, parents complain that driver’s education is too costly.

I would like to remind them that the average cost of a crash in the United States is $19,000 and that car crashes are the cause for nearly 40 percent of teen deaths. Yet they complain about the cost of a class that is less than most insurance deductibles. Talk about having their priorities askew! Until it happens to them it isn’t real. But until it happens to them, they may no longer have a child, or at the very least, be out of pocket thousands of dollars in insurance deductibles and increases. It is far less costly to prevent the crash through proper education, please, refocus your attention on making your child the best driver they can be, and not on your pocket book.

Posted in dmv driver's training, driving school, Graduated Driver's Licenses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 http://www.carseatscolorado.com.  For more information on Colorado’s teen driving laws and tips, visit http://www.coteendriver.com.  For more information about the leading causes of child injury and how they can be prevented, visit http://www.cdc.gov/safechild.

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Deathly crash may lead to teen driving legislation in New Mexico

Posted by lapearce on July 15, 2009

The teens car after the fatal crash

The teens' car after the fatal crash

It was after midnight on Sunday, June 28 in Santa Fe New Mexico. Five teens were driving to a house party having just left a Sonic restaurant. In the other direction was driving 28-year-old Scott Owens with a blood alcohol level of .16, twice the legal limit. He crossed over the center divider in front of the car full of teens. In an instant four young lives were lost, and the only survivor left in critical condition. As for Owens, as so often happens in these cases, received only minor injuries.

Crashes like this often times lead to public outcry. Instead of outcry over drunk driving, however, in this case, the outcry is for better restrictions on teen drivers. Maybe if New Mexico didn’t allow provisional drivers to have passengers only one teen would have died that night. Maybe if New Mexico didn’t allow provisional drivers to drive after 10 p.m. no lives would have been lost.

Problem with that thinking is: it already is illegal in New Mexico for teen drivers to do these things.

So then why fight for more laws against teens when the problem in this case was a fully licensed adult who was driving drunk? David McGinnis, a driving instructor who lobbied 10 years ago for the graduated drivers liecnse in New Mexico says the problem isn’t the law: it’s the parents. If parents were enforcing the GDL on their teens, perhaps the kids would not have been on the road when Owens went into oncoming traffic. Or, perhaps they did have strict rules that were being broken at the time, we don’t know.

Lawmakers are considering putting stickers on teens cars to show they have provisional licenses or increase the restriction time until the drivers are 18. The only way these provisions would have prevented this crash would have been if the teens were pulled over by a police officer who saw the sticker and noticed that the teens were breaking curfew and passenger laws.

New Mexico already has very comprehensive drunk driving laws. The state was the first in the nation to require ignition interlock for all convicted drunk drivers. The system does not allow the car to start if the driver has been drinking. There isn’t much room for improvement on drunk driving legislation in New Mexico, which is perhaps why this crash is being used as a cry for better teen driving laws, instead of better drunk driving laws.

It is true that if GDL laws were being followed this crash would not have happened. However, if Owens had not been drinking and driving, the crash would not have happened either. He’s the one at fault here and he’s the one who should be, and will be, punished for what happened. Four lives were lost because of bad decisions that were made, but putting stickers on cars will not bring those lives back. McGinnis is right, the answer is to enforce the laws that already exist before putting more restrictions on new drivers that run the risk of not being followed. That is the best way to honor the lives lost on June 28.

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Police find success in calling parents when they pull over teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on July 15, 2009

One of the best ways to make teens drive better is to involve parents. Crash rates, and ultimately deaths, decrease when parents are directly involved in their child’s driving. With graduated drivers licenses, however, we’re taking the focus off the parents and putting it on law enforcement to make sure young drivers are being responsible. For states that don’t have graduated drivers licenses, for many teens, not even the police are keeping an eye on new drivers.

Florida is one of those states with poor GDL laws, however, in the city of Oviedo, police have found a way to bring parents into the process. A year ago the police started contacting parents when 16 or 17 year old drivers were stopped, even if they didn’t receive a ticket. The police department feels that this program has been a success.

Lieutenant George Ilemsky thinks the program is common sense, “Why not get the parents involved? They have to have a responsibility in what their son and daughter are doing.”

The program helped Orievo win the 2009 law enforcement traffic safety award and has lead to other cities following the model that Orievo started. In the past six weeks they have contacted 53 parents, most of which have been thankful for the call.

Not all parents are convinced the program is good. One father says “I believe that the teenager has a right to be able to handle it on his own irregardless (sic) of what the kid did.” As you may expect, I disagree with this gentelman. First saying the teen has a right to handle the situation is incorrect. Because the teen is a minor, the parents are responsible for what ever the teen does, NOT the teen himself. The parents have a right then to know what their teens are doing and have  a responsibility to ensure that their teen does not injure or kill someone else on the road because of how they are driving. It is the parents legal responsibility to do so because they can be charged or sued because of the actions of their teen driver.

If the police are going to pull over teens anyways, it makes sense to take an extra step and make a call. While the article does not say if the program has decreased incidences of teens being pulled over, I’d say that if a teen knows that their parents will be informed when they are pulled over, that they are probably more likely to follow traffic laws. Just a hunch on my part, but if i were 16 I certinally would not want my parents to know when I was fooling around on the road.

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