Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘parents of teens’

New teen driving safety equiptment is born from tragedy

Posted by lapearce on March 6, 2010

Rianna had only been driving for three weeks when she was killed in a crash

I’ve always felt that the best way to remember and honor the dead is to do what you can to ensure what happened to them doesn’t happen to anyone else. That is why after my 16-year-old neighbor Rianna Woosely died in 2005 in a car crash that was a result of too much speed and too little experience, I started teaching teens how to drive. I felt that if I could prevent one death, if I could save one family, school, neighborhood from that experience, than I would be doing a justice to Rianna’s memory.

I was not the only one touched by Rianna’s death. Rianna was driving too fast that night because she was following her boyfriend in his pickup truck. He did not crash, but she did. His father, Todd Follmer,  was haunted by that fact. About a month after the crash Todd was given the opportunity to work for a company that created crash data recorders for NASCAR and other industries when he had an epiphany, “Why not record the data before the crash?”

Enter Tiwi, a portable navigation-sized box that sits on the dashboards of cars. It hooks into the car’s dataport (standard after 1996) and records when the driver drives recklessly, doesn’t use his/her seatbelt, or leaves a predetermined zone.  It also has the posted speed limits for all streets plugged in and can alert the driver to speeding after 1, 5 or 10 mph over the limit. Break a rule, the little box tells you– and your parents– that you aren’t being a safe driver. After the drive the Tiwi gives you a grade for how you did.

The device costs $300 and $30 a month for the software & GPS that keeps it going.The next generation of Tiwi hopes to be able to tell when the driver is on his/her phone or texting too.

With other devices like this there are teens, and even parents, who feel it is an invasion of privacy and very big brother. If spying could save the life of your child than spy away. Where I feel there needs to be criticism of devices like this is in the fact that suppressing the problem isn’t the same as solving it. The problem is that we don’t give our teens enough driving experience to be able to make the right decisions on their own, making us dependent on little boxes that chide them for doing something wrong.

Our drivers training in this country is focused on the rules of the road, not how to drive. Most of us become experienced in crash avoidance when we avoid a crash– or when we don’t, in which case the learning experience could be deadly. It is best to put the kids in their cars on a closed course and teach them where their limits are and what their cars are capable when the only things they can hit are soft, rubber cones– not other cars or trees. If you teach them how to get out of emergencies before the emergencies happen you give them a chance. A message on your phone telling you that your child is driving recklessly may help them not drive recklessly next time, but it won’t save them if they lose control around the next bend.

I don’t want to downplay the potential life-saving good that Tiwi and similar products can do, but it has to be part of a rounded approach to driver’s training. Send your child to a defensive driving course or car control clinic– they cost as much as Tiwi and don’t come with monthly payments, set up a teen and parent driving contract where you outline what is and isn’t allowed and the punishments for breaking rules, then, once you have this foundation in place, monitor their driving.

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Teen driving laws aren’t enough to save lives

Posted by lapearce on February 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Teenage girls are becoming more agressive on the road

Posted by lapearce on February 4, 2010

I guess that whole gender equality movement has finally peaked with the upcoming generation. A recent Allstate survey found that while teen boys are becoming calmer behind the wheel teen girls are increasingly taking part in risky behavior. Girls are also more likely to text while they drive– one in four are guilty of it.

The old assumptions that parents and insurance companies have had about girls being safer on the road than boys is coming to a screeching halt and girls prove that they can be dangerous too. If you have a teen daughter don’t feel as though she’ll be safe because she isn’t “aggressive”. As the old Disney cartoon “Motor Mania” showed, people become different when they are behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Studies have actually shown that we de-humanize people when they are surrounded by steal– or even the helmet of a motorcycle. We don’t react to them as people, we react to them as ‘cars’. This de-humanizing allows us to drop our typical societal norms of politeness and to treat people how we wouldn’t treat them if they weren’t in a vehicle. Would you ever cut in front of someone in line at the grocery store? Probably not. They will likely tap you on the shoulder and point to the end of the line. But how many of us have cut in front of other cars? No shoulder tapping, no pointing, a honk is easy enough to escape.

Girls need to be reminded that they are not immune to problems on the road. The dangers of distractions need to be drilled in them more than boys and both sexes need all the education they can get on how to be safe drivers.

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Connecticut parents appreciate more education

Posted by lapearce on January 28, 2010

After a series of deadly crashes in 2007, Connecticut decided to ramp up its teen driving education and laws to help prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. The state began to require teens take eight-hours of instruction, added new graduated drivers license laws and became one of the first states to require parents take instruction as well.

The mandatory two-hour class is designed to help parents help their children learn how to drive. The course goes over driving laws, penalties, distractions and other topics (however, it doesn’t look like pointers on how to teach your child how to drive is part of the curriculum). A survey of parents who took part in the program by Preusser Research Group found that parents overwhelmingly supported the class and felt that they learned something.

85% of parents said the class gave them new information and most agreed that it changed the way they taught their teens. The parents were more likely to enforce laws and spend more time in the car with their teens than before taking the class. This is a huge benefit to the new drivers, since there is a direct correlation to parental involvement and crash reduction.

I hope that other states look at Connecticut’s success with their new program and begin to implement similar programs in their own states. Instruction and getting parents involved are both keys to stopping the teen driving epidemic.

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Recap of the teen driving panel at Vistamar high school

Posted by lapearce on November 19, 2009

 

Judy speaking to 150 parents and teens

Driving Concepts Foundation had the honor of being invited to be part of a panel discussion on teen driving at Vistamar High School in El Segundo California. Our founder, Judy Ray, a member of Students Against destructive Decisions (SADD), an insurance agent and two police officers made up the panel. After introductions and a few questions the attention was turned to questions from the audience.

 

Some questions that were asked:

Q: Is it against the law to text while you sit at a light?

A: Yes. If someone isn’t paying attention and doesn’t stop you won’t be able to avoid the crash if you are looking at your phone.

 

Q: How much driver’s training is necessary?

A: A lot more than is required! Teens need as much experience as they can get before they are allowed on the road alone.

 

Q: How can you make sure your teen driver does what you want them to do?

A: There is technology out there to monitor them, but at the end of the day it comes down to your parenting and your enforcement of rules that you set.

 

Q: (from teen) I want a motorcycle, is that a good idea?

A: No. They take a lot more attention and concentration to drive and being a new driver, you have enough to focus on to not have to throw that into the mix. Also, if something does go wrong you won’t have anything to protect you. As said by one of the police officers, “Wait until you are 40”.

 

Q: I heard if you took the keys out of the ignition and put them on the floor you can’t be cited for drunk driving, is that true?

A: Not at all. “That is horrible advice” said one officer. You will get a DUI if you try this or anything like this.

 

Q: What will happen to insurance if a teen is caught with a DUI/will damages in a DUI/distracted driving crash be covered by insurance?

A: The teen will likely be dropped from insurance if they get a DUI. Insurance will cover damages as that is part of liability coverage.

 

Q: What are the rules of a provisional license in California?

A: For the first year: no passengers unless accompanied by a driver 20 or over and no driving between 11 p.m.-5a.m. There are provisions for family members, school events, work, etc. Also, alcohol and call phones are completely off limit. 0.01 is a DUI and bluetooth is a cell phone violation. Violations of provisional licence can lead to the loss of a license for a year or until the age of 18. (More info)

 

Audience at the panel discussion

It was a great panel and Judy’s knowledge and experience really shined. The parents and the students both loved what she added as a professional race car driver AND a teen driving instructor. We handed out a number of brochures and many parents told us that they would be signing their students up. That was great, I’m glad we were able to get through to people. Before the panel discussion parents who came by the booth focused on cost and location, afterward parents wanted to know how to sign their children up. It’s amazing how a little bit of information can change their mindset.

 

Our program pays for itself a number of times over if it means your child avoids one car crash. If that crash they avoid happens to be a fatal one the pay off is priceless. You can’t put a price on the life of your child.

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Free handbook to help parents with teen drivers.

Posted by lapearce on July 20, 2009

Teaching your teen how to drive can be a stressful and frightening endevor. Luckily, there are tools out there deisgned to help parents during this important part of your teen’s life. Remember: your involvement reduces the chance that your teen is involved in a crash, so do everything you can to be a part of your teen’s driver’s training, licensing and driving.

To help you during this difficult time Metlife has created a handbook that has been endorsed by the NHTSA. This handbook will help you with:

  • Staying cool as a copilot
  • What to do before each trip
  • Helping your teen see
  • Helping them follow in traffic
  • Controlling speeds
  • Safe space and the vehicle
  • Deciding where to go
  • Communicating on the road.

Metlife will mail this book to you free of charge.

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About.com gives parents dangerous advice for teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on July 2, 2009

Teens are more likely to speed and not wear seatbelts with teen passengers due to peer pressure

Teens are more likely to speed and not wear seatbelts with teen passengers due to peer pressure

Denise Witmer at About.com’s “Thirfty Thursday” advice for parents of teen drivers is one that is going to put teens in danger. Denise says that to save money parents should encourage their teens to carpool with friends, but then adds: On a side note: Stress that too many people in the car is not a good idea. Safety first!

How about: On a side note: disregard this entire tip because all passengers are not a good idea. Safety first!

A Michigan study showed that among male teen drivers, they had passengers in 43 percent of crashes, compared to 28 percent with adult men.  This is compared to 5 and 6 percent for alcohol. You wouldn’t see anyone give you advice to let your teen drink and drive, so you certainly shouldn’t take advice to all how them drive with passengers, as it can be more dangerous (from a statistical basis) than drinking and driving.

Witmer’s bio says that she is “About.com Guide to Parenting Teens Since 1997”  she may be well educated in teen development but she isn’t well informed about the dangers of driving and teens. This is a real shame, because as the go to for parenting teens she should be aware of the leading cause of death for teens and its contributing factors. But Witmer isn’t the only parent who is unaware of the dangers of driving.

This Allstate survey found that 88 percent of the parents they spoke to felt their teen was a good driver, even though less than a third of parents thought other teens were good drivers. 77 percent allowed their teens to drive with teen passengers.  Also notable is that nearly half of parents thought that the leading cause of teen crashes was alcohol. It’s not: speed, night driving and passengers are cause more crashes than teens driving drunk. Most of these parents likely wouldn’t knowingly allow their teen to drive drunk, but they will knowingly allow them to drive with friends, even though it is more dangerous.

Paying more for gas is better than losing a child in a crash. The cost of the insurance deductible for any crash related to passengers, fatal or not, will be more than the cost savings at the pump from carpooling. It simply isn’t worth the risk. I hope that about.com retracts this tip soon and that Witmer takes the time to educate herself on teen driving and its dangers. All parents should be aware, whether you are a parenting guide or just a parent.

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