Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘prius’

The driver’s error factor to Toyota’s acceleration problem

Posted by lapearce on March 9, 2010

This Prius driver called 911 when his car accelerated up to 90mph, a police officer yelled at him to hit the brakes before stopping the car with his bumper

No one wants to be behind the wheel of a runaway car that accelerates on its own. Toyota’s brand is going to be damaged for years to come by this problem and their response to it. But there is an even bigger problem here than sticky accelerators: the drivers who lack the common sense to stop the cars themselves.

To clear the air on the point I’m trying to make: cars shouldn’t accelerate on their own. This problem shouldn’t exist in the first place and it is inexcusable that Toyota allowed so many cars to be made with this problem. But that doesn’t excuse the absolutely clueless drivers who can’t figure out how to put a car in neutral or slam on the brakes. The problem isn’t just with a worn pedal or a misplaced floor mats, it’s with how we are training our drivers and the amount of skills the average driver possesses.

As drivers we are becoming increasingly dependent on our cars to do things for us. We have anti-lock brakes to keep our brakes from locking up. Traction control to keep us from spinning out. Lane departure warnings to tell us when we are leaving our lane. Blind spot indicators to tell us when a car is next to us. Tire pressure monitors that tell us when our tires need air. Automatic transmissions that shift themselves and cruise control that lets the engine accelerate on its own. Plus hundreds of other little computers doing tasks that humans used to do. Not all technology is bad, ABS for example is great, but many of these features are dumbing down the driving population and leading to a generation of drivers who can’t even find neutral on a gear selector.

Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Institution is thinking about solving the problem by adding in yet another computer to do the job for us. The agency is considering mandating that all new cars have an override system where when you hit the brakes it overrides the gas. This technology will be the fatal shot to the already dying manual transmission. Goodbye downshifting, good bye fun, goodbye the last standout of drivers’ input in a world of cars that do everything for you. It is ridiculous and unnecessary too because hitting the brakes in a runaway Toyota will already stop the car.

We need to step up as a society and not just demand Toyota make safer cars, but demand that drivers be given the education they need to solve these problems without the addition of new nanny systems and government oversight. We need to raise voices in concern about all of the electronics that are in control of cars today and ask how necessary they are. Do they really help or are they hurting us by giving us an illusion of safety and reducing our skills to take control when the systems give it up?

No one should have died because of Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem. Everyone should have been able to put the car into neutral and hit the brakes. And if Toyota has some computer that doesn’t allow the driver of the car to do that—then that’s another problem all together.


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Michigan puts activism before safety in drivers training

Posted by lapearce on November 30, 2009

Michigan is not in good financial state right now. Most states aren’t, but as far as financial woes go, Michigan is at the forefront with many of its bread-winning companies (GM, Chrysler) struggling to survive, corruption in its government and other serious problems. The state is running in the red and has the highest unemployment rate in the nation– 15.1% as of 11/20. Michigan has issues, but one of those issues is not a lack of environmental awareness among new drivers. However, some representatives in Michigan seem to think this problem is pressing enough to pursue when entire towns are being boarded up and abandoned due to the economic crisis.

Driver’s education should be the place where teens learn how to drive. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case in America. Our standards for licensing are incredibly poor and this is reflected in the high number of fatal teen crashes in the nation’s roads. Teens learn more about how to pass the drivers test and how a yield sign works than how to actually drive. They are not taught how to avoid crashes and they are not taught safe driving practices to help ensure they are never in the place where they need to avoid a crash. Michigan also lacks solid graduated drivers license laws. So not only is the state not teaching teens how to drive, its not offering them adequate protection once they get their license. But instead of fixing these problems two legislatures would rather cultivate new tree huggers in an education model that will only cause more crashes and more deaths.

Now, let me get something straight. I’m not anti-environment. I’m not for raping the earth just for our consumption. I don’t go out and hug many trees, but I do my part. I buy local and organic, I use reusable shopping bags, I drive a car that gets pretty good fuel economy, I take public transportation. Oh, and I vote Republican. But I’m a moderate. So I’m not against things like carpool or public transportation, I’m just against using the precious few hours teens spend in drivers education talking about these things instead of talking about, oh, you know– driving.

Michigan lawmakers  Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, and Dan Scripps, D-Leland have put forth a bill that would require drivers education to teach about buying fuel efficient cars and the benefits of carpooling and using public transportation. On its surface this may seem rather benign, but it is far from that.

First off: fuel efficient cars. Ok, whats wrong with that? Well, many fuel efficient cars sacrifice handling, braking and safety for the sake of a few miles per gallon. We’ve had a tug of war battle between safety and fuel economy in this nation since both environmentalism and Nader’s car safety campaign began in the 1970s. The sad fact is that these two agendas conflict with each other.

The Untied State’s CAFE standards kill people every year. CAFE is the US standards on fuel economy that started in the 1970s.  Manufactures are fined for not meeting standards, pushing them to make more fuel efficient cars. But fuel efficiency doesn’t always equal safety. Simply physics is that more weight protects you in a crash. Safety systems such as airbags, ABS brakes, traction control, and crumple zones are all heavy. So are powerful motors, navigation control, and heated motorized leather seats that the consumer demands. Throw all of these things into a car and you have one heavy vehicle… and that weight decreases fuel economy. So to increase fuel economy, manufacturers started to use lighter materials to make cars. The effect: 46,000 fatalities since CAFE was inacted that would have been avoided with better made cars. That’s 7,700 deaths for every mpg gained.

Prius are heavy and narrow, they handle and stop poorly which can lead to crashes

I’m not advocating that everyone drives Excurions guzzling gallons of gas a minute, but I also don’t think that the Prius and other fuel efficient cars are good choices for most people. Michigan has pretty bad weather, by focusing on fuel efficiency you may put kids who should be driving higher clearance AWD cars for the conditions in FWD cars that can’t handle snow as well, increasing crashes. What if you play sports? A little hatch back may not be the best option to haul around your gear. By emphasizing fuel efficiency only you are ignoring the different needs of different drivers. You are also ignoring other points of consideration for new cars such as safety, price and maintenance needs. This is before you even consider the fact that the average 16 year old isn’t the one going out and buying their first car, it is usually mom or dad.

Second problem: carpooling. There is a very good reason why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that teens not be allowed to carry passengers until they’ve had their license for a year. Teen drivers with ONE passenger in the car are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a teen driver driving along. Twice as likely. They are distracting and the lead to peer pressure. Teens are more likely to show off when they have other teens in the car in order to look cool for their friends– a trait that has lead to many crashes. Michigan does not include passenger restrictions in their graduated drivers laws. Instead of asking why not, these two legislature are taking advantage in the flaws in the system to further their agendas. By encouraging carpooling they will kill kids.

Yes, carpooling saves gas, it keeps miles of the car, it makes Mother Nature sing a loving song right out of a Disney movie, but it is also dangerous. Ask any parent what is more important to them: saving a few bucks a month on fuel economy or having their child reach 17. I think we all know how that one is going to end.

Well what about public transportation? I think public transportation is great. I use the train myself quite a bit instead of driving. I don’t have any objection to teaching teens about public transportation… in another venue. Why teach drivers about not driving? Isn’t that like teaching math in history class? It doesn’t make sense to be in driver’s education at all. There is also probably a safety aspect here to teenage girls taking public transportation late at night too that I’m sure many parents would have issue with.

Our teens get precious little education when it comes to driving. It is a big problem that should be addressed. It has been said that if teen driving was a disease that killed 5,000 teens each year the nation would be in an uproar. Everyone would be trying to find a cure, there would be walks, donation drives, etc, but the fatal teen driving epidemic cannot be cured by a pill, it can only be cured by more and higher quality education. I feel there is a huge flaw in our system of government when it comes to setting laws. We entrust people without actual knowledge in issues to create laws for them. If either Bert Johnson or Dan Scripps of Michigan had any worthwhile drivers education and experience, or if either of them had just bothered to look at the NHTSA teen driving page, they would realize their law was a bad idea.

Stop taking driving out of drivers training! We need more in car education not less. Take your environmental agenda to a place that is more approrpaite and leave drivers training for drivers training!

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Why the gov’s new tire label is dangerous

Posted by lapearce on June 19, 2009

We pride ourselves on being a ‘car culture’ in this country, but this is a misnomer. Most of us don’t care at all about cars. We don’t care about handling or the dynamics of the car. Most of us just want something that is either big and comfortable, or reliable and fuel efficient that gets us where we need to go. We aren’t a car culture at all, we’re a driving culture.

It makes sense then that that in this driving culture masquarading as a car culture that the government can do something so stupid as waste money to provide people with information that is already provided and put fuel efficiency over safety.

Here is the sticker that the National Traffic Highway Saftey Administration spent your tax dollars researching and designing:

The label by law will need to be attached to all new tires so motorists can see (in order of importance, I guess) efficiency/green house rating, safety and longevity.

My first problem with this system is TIRES ALREADY HAVE ALL OF THIS INFORMATION ON THEM! The only thing is that the average consumer is too apathetic to learn how to decipher what the information on a tire means. With all the 4 for $100 tire deals that people take part in it is obvious that safety is not the most important thing to many people when it comes to buying tires: its price and how long the tire will last.

No one is told about how important tires are to your safety when they get their license, or even later on in life, which brings me to my second problem about this rating system: it puts fuel economy above safety.

Your tires are the ONLY thing connecting you to the ground, and their ONLY job is to keep you connected to the ground.

What tires are on your car, proper inflation, and wear are almost important as having working brakes. I get a lot of odd looks for this statement, but it is true. If you do not have grip, if your tire is not keeping you connected to the ground and you are sliding, it doesn’t matter what brakes you have: you will not stop. A “low rolling resistance” tire may be more fuel efficient, but it won’t stick to the ground like a high rolling resistance tire will. That resistance, that stickiness is what is keeping you connected to mother earth. And if you have ever been in a car that has lost traction and slid, you will know first hand how important that rolling resistance, that grip, is.

The Prius handles so poorly that we dont allow them to go faster than 30mph on our course fo the safety of the student

In the class I teach we have the students drive the car they will drive when they get their license. We get quite the ecletcic mix of vehicles, but my favorite are the Priuses (Prix) because of how absolutely horrible they are.

The Prius is a perfect point and case to my argument that people care more about fuel economy and reliability than they do safety. The car is very heavy because of the batteries, very narrow for fuel economy, and Toyota put these heavy, narrow cars on the skinniest, hardest, “lowest roll resistant” Goodyear tire they could have possibly found. The result? A vehicle that can’t keep up with an SUV in a turn. But hey, it gets good fuel economy right?

Well, that good fuel economy could be the difference between avoiding a crash and being in one. This isn’t just about Prix now, this is about all cars with rock hard, 85,000 mile tires that are good for the environment, but bad for consumers. According to Continental Tires these eco-friendly low emission tires have less grip and take longer to stop:

“extremely low rolling resistance and high mileage [tires] are 10-percent worse at wet braking than those with good all-round properties.” In one example, the eco friendly tires increased braking distance by more than 24 feet.

You want to talk about harm to the environment? How about getting new body parts manufactured out of plastic and metal, shipped to your body shop, painted and installed, then the old parts thrown in a junk yard. Or having your whole car sit in a junk yard because it was totalled. Or all of the harm the pharmacuticals you may be given after your crash do to the aquatic ecosystem, or all the plastics involved in medicine.

Why? All because you wanted to get .1 mpg more?

You may say, “But Lauren, they show the tire’s safety on the label!” No, they show the tire’s wet traction on the label, which in my educated opinion is not the same as safety. Many tires that do well in the wet do not do well in the dry. That information may be great for you in Seattle, but if you live in a place where it is sunnier more days than it is rainy then buying a tire based on its wet traction may not be the best idea for you, as you will be forfitting safety on dry days. Wet traction is important, but it is not the be all and end all of safety when it comes to chosing a tire. Tirerack has a great tire buying guide that shows both wet and dry traction.

It’s just not worth it people. If you want to get better fuel economy then follow these tips on how to drive. You’ll save a lot more money, and by not tailgating, leaving more room to stop and accelerating slower you’ll also reduce your crash risk. Take it from me. My car is rated 18/26 for fuel economy, but following those tips I was able to get 34mpg with wide, high rolling resistance, un-eco-friendly tires and freeway driving. That is a 35 percent mileage improvent compared to the 10 percent improvement they boast with these dangerous tires. You’ll get the same mpg gain by just keeping your tires properly inflated as you would by switching to an eco-friendly tire.

Skimping on tires just isn’t worth it. It isn’t safe and it could mean the difference between life and death. Trust me, the minuet differences in emmissions from a low rolling resistance tire and a high rolling resistance tire isn’t going to save the world, but it might save your life.

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