Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘new driver’

Parents’ driving effect how teens drive

Posted by lapearce on November 23, 2009

What bad habits are you teaching your children?

Are you a good driver? Do you use your turn blinker, follow at a safe distance, obey speed limits… do you use your phone while you drive, do you yell at other drivers, do you drive without your seat belt? If you have children, you should probably review how you drive, not just for the safety of your children today, but for the sake of their driving future.

While we may think that teenagers strive to be nothing like their parents, when it comes to driving, teens look up to their parents more than anyone else. “If children grow up watching their Mum or Dad talk, text and email on their mobiles while driving, they’re going to think it’s okay to do the same thing.” says Peter Rodger chief examiner of the Institute of Advanced Motorists in the UK.

Rodger says that children start to take note of their parents driving style from a young age. Even if you enforce seat belt use for your children, if you don’t wear one, your child will likely not buckle up when they start driving.

A US based study done by Liberty Mutual and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) found that 60% of high school students said their parents are the biggest influence on their driving. Younger children report even higher numbers, showing they are watching you long before they are able to drive themselves.

So 60% of teens look up to their parents as the number one influence on their driving, yet:

  • 62% say their parents talk on the phone while driving
  • 48% say their parents speed
  • 31% say their parents don’t wear seat belts

So perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that:

  • 62% of teens talk on the phone while driving (half of those who don’t yet drive think they will too)
  • 67% speed (65% of non drivers think they will)
  • 33% don’t wear seat belts (28% of non drivers say they won’t)

The numbers are too close to be coincidence. This is why our driving program involves parents. Many of the safe driving tips we teach were not taught to parents, or have been forgotten. When parents are involved the crash risk drops substantially among teen drivers. If parents put forth a good example for their teens, crash rates drop even more. Before you do something unsafe on the road look in the back seat: will your decision effect more than just you?

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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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GHSA to honor teen driving safety advocates and programs

Posted by lapearce on August 31, 2009

The Governors Traffic Safety Association (GTSA) is having its annual conference on Wednesday in Georgia. As part of the event awards will be given to top teen safety advocates in the nation.

Winning top honors will be Senator John J. Cullerton of Illinois. Sen. Cullerton has spent 30 years advocating for automobile safety and has helped enact seat belt laws, DUI laws and graduated drivers license laws. The Illinois Operation Teen Safe Driving Program (which Ford Driving Skills for Life and Allstate are partners) and the New Jersey Teen Driver Study Commission will also win awards for their efforts to save teen lives.

Congratulations to the winners of all of the GHSA’s awards and thank you for working to make the roads a safer place.

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Is it an accident or a crash? Who is to blame when your teen wrecks a car?

Posted by lapearce on August 25, 2009

Warning sticker about roll over risk, speed, abrupt manouvers and seatbelts in an SUV

Warning sticker about roll over risk, speed, abrupt maneuvers and seatbelts in an SUV

Many people in the auto safety industry refuse to call wrecks accidents. That is because an accident implies that no one was at fault. That everything just happened and the drivers involved could not have stopped the collision no matter what they did. Typically that isn’t the case. Even when vehicle failure causes a crash a lack of maintenance on the driver’s fault is the actual cause. Instead, we call wrecks crashes. It is more accurate as it doesn’t assume that no fault can be assigned.

Now that the word accident is out of your teen driving vocabulary, who is at fault when your teen crashes? Let’s look at the case of Brandon Hodges of Jacksonville Florida. He was driving a Ford Explorer with nine people in it when a tire blew out. He was unable to control the car and it flipped. Only Hodges was wearing a seat belt and four teens were tragically killed in the crash.

The families of Hodges and one of the victims blame the tire manufacturer for the crash. Bobbie Krebs, mother of one of the teens killed said,

“The person to blame is the person that made that tire. … I’m not going to let him [Brandon] take the fall for them.”

But is Brandon taking the fall for the tire company, or is the tire company taking the fall for Brandon? Brandon was fifteen at the time of the crash. He didn’t have a license and was allowed to drive. He was driving a car with more passengers than seat belts (not that it mattered much since no one was using those belts). He was speeding.

But Hodge’s lawyer says none of these things are a factor in the crash, that it is all the fault of Cooper Tire who made the tire. He adds that the case reminds him of the Firestone lawsuit nine years ago. That comment reminds me of a cop out and dollar signs.

A number of Ford Explorers rolled about a decade ago due to defective Firestone tires that suffered from tread

A tire defect PLUS underinflation caused Explorer roll overs

A tire defect PLUS underinflation caused Explorer roll overs

separation when the tire was underinflated.Yes, the tire was defective, but a driver who properly maintained his/her SUV’s tire pressure was immune to the defect. Fact is tires rarely blow out without reason. Typically they are under inflated, over inflated or bald. Sometimes they hit an object in the road causing damage to them. But even in the case of the Firestone roll over scandal owners were also at fault for the crashes they were involved in. They were not accidents, they were crashes. They were avoidable.

“When under inflated, all radial tires generate excessive heat,” Crigger said. “Driving on tires in this condition can lead to tread separation. Maintaining the proper inflation level will enhance the performance and lifespan of these tires.” –Firestone

Even if the tire on Hodge’s girlfriend’s family’s SUV was defective it doesn’t detract from the fact that he was unlicensed and speeding. Just because a blow out happens doesn’t mean a crash is inevitable as well. Proper driver’s training and experience give people the necessary skills to remain control after a blow out. As an unlicnsed driver, these are two things that Hodges definitely did not possess. Would it have been completely avoidable with a licensed driver? No. People panic and they react poorly in emergency situations. Is there a higher probability that the crash would have been avoided with a licensed driver? Yes. 100%.

What message do we send to teens when we blame others for their actions?

Teens all across Florida are learning right now that they aren’t at fault when something goes wrong with their car because of the actions of Hodge’s family and lawyer. Hodges did still break the law, regardless of what other factors went into the crash and he should be held responsible for doing so. In our litigious society where everyone sues everyone for everything we are constantly shifting blame. I think we are breeding a generation of people who will feel that they are not responsible for their actions and fail to own up to them or work to resolve them.

Should parents be held responsible for the actions of their teens?

By holding parents responsible you are shifting the blame away from the teen. Even though that is true, parents can still be held responsible for their teen’s actions and have an effect on what their young drivers do. From a legal perspective you are responsible for what your teen does up until the age of 18. Anything they do wrong behind the wheel can come back to you in the form of one of the lawsuits I mentioned in the last section.

I do believe that some crashes are partially caused by negligent parents. Parents control their teens driving. Parents who do not enforce graduated drivers license rules, or who do not take away the keys when their teen is being dangerous on the road have some responsibility in their teen’s actions. Parents need to remember that teen brains have not fully developed and they do not recognize risk the same way adults do. What is stupid and dangerous to us is fun to them. Parents need to watch over their teen drivers and not be afraid to take away the keys if their young drivers are not being safe.

Of course, Hodge’s family is just trying to keep Brandon out of jail and if that means throwing Cooper Tire under the bus that is what they’ll do to keep their sixteen-year-old out of the big house. I’m sure many parents would lie if it meant keeping their child out of prison. It is hard to blame them for the goal they are trying to achieve, but I criticize them for the methods they are employing.

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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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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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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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New online community created for teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on July 27, 2009

AAA has created http://www.aaateendriving.com in the hopes to give teens a place to share their on-road experiences with other teens. The forum is brand new with very few posts, none of which seem to be from teens yet. Also, only a handful of AAA chapters are taking part in the forum. If you are in one of the 45 other states that aren’t involved, it looks like you are out of luck.

I just lied in order to get in, since California is not a part of the forum. I’m very curious what the teens will talk about. I think I know, because one of the other car based web forums I frequent has an average age of 18. Most of the conversations there are about how to make cars faster, and how they beat another car on the road, and “omg my parents are going to kill me I got in a crash”.

I’m very curious to see how the AAA moderators will reign in these types of comments. I don’t think you can avoid them when you are talking about teens and cars. Teens get in more crashes than any other drivers because they drive more recklessly than any other drivers. They like talking about this too. Bragging about tickets, 130mph runs on the freeways, and risky canyon driving. I’m going to register at http://www.aaateendriving.com to see whats being send, and hopefully guide teens in the right direction. A true challenge on the internet, I know from experience.

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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 »