Save Our Teen Drivers

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

Posts Tagged ‘teen driver’

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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Speeding teen kills family of four in Somona, CA

Posted by lapearce on December 3, 2009

This tragic tale happens far too often. 19 year old Steven Culbertson killed a family of four on Saturday night as he ran a red light in his MINI Cooper at 70-90mph. Speed limit on the road is 55mph. His little car t-boned a Nissan minivan killing the family of four inside as they returned from the airport after a vacation in Hawaii. John and Susan Maloney and their children Aiden (8) and Gracie (5) were killed instantly in the crash, Steven died on Sunday due to his injuries. To add salt to the wounds, two deadbeats decided that since the family was dead they no longer needed their worldly possessions and robbed their house. The couple was arrested yesterday, ironically they were found out when the woman, Amber True, was arrested for driving without a license.

Minivan belonging to the Maloney family after being hit by a speeding teen

Steven had his license suspended for a year when he was 17 due to drunk driving. It is unclear at this point if alcohol was a factor in this crash, but an eye witness says he say him drinking two hours before the fateful crash, which, ironically, happened right down the street from Infineon Raceway, a place where people can go those types of speed legally and safely without having to worry about hitting minivans filled with children.

The MINI driver had aspirations of being a racer, and had taken his car to the track– the only place where one should drive like he was driving on Saturday night. Unfortunately, Steven could not separate track driving from road driving and it lead to his death and the death of four others. He made a big mistake, a mistake that could have implications for your teen.

First off, when ever a crash like this happens, the thing that stands out for everyone is the word teenager. Steven just dropped the credibility of all teen drivers by his mistake. Teens already have really low credibility as drivers due to their inexperience, and their propensity to make bad decisions. Teens do cause more crashes than older drivers, but that doesn’t mean that teens are always at fault for their crashes or that all teens will make the same mistake Steven did.

Secondly, when crashes like this happen the natural reaction of many is “change the laws/road so this doesn’t happen again”. People love blaming the road. The road didn’t do anything, it was just a strip of asphalt that accommodated the perpetrator of the crime. There is always something to blame with the road. There’s a rise in the hill that interferes with visibility, or the speed limit is too high, or there aren’t enough barriers, no matter what the case, the road will be blamed. Then people will look at the laws, and not the driver training laws, they’ll try to restrict teen drivers more. This just puts a band-aid on the problem and doesn’t fix anything.

Third: race car drivers or aspiring race car drivers can have their name tarnished. I’m a HUGE advocate of taking your car to the track. You learn so much about yourself as a driver and the abilities of your car when you push it to the limits. It makes you a better driver. It is also the only safe place to drive your car fast. I find that going to the track takes the need for speed away and that I drive calmer on the road for weeks after a good day on a race track. Most of the race car drivers I know drive very responsibly on the road. I don’t want anyone to look down at people who drive on the track, or keep their children from participating in track days, because of this crash. It is worthwhile and driving fast on the track does not mean you will drive fast on the road.
I really hope that one day we no longer have to read stories like this. I hope that one day better training means that drivers are more responsible on the road. Until that day: be safe, and keep it on the track!

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In case you needed more proof that the driver’s education program is broken

Posted by lapearce on December 1, 2009

I just had this conversation with a fifteen-year-old:

Teen: I just finished drivers ed last night D

Me: Congrats, how was the class?

Teen: Well it was online, I listened to music, watched tv and used the book, aka didn’t learn s**t.

Me: That is exactly what is wrong with the system

Teen: It was free and offered through school

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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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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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How can parents find safe driving schools?

Posted by lapearce on November 19, 2009

An investigative report at WKYC in Ohio has unveiled some frightening facts at driving schools in and around Cleveland. Since 2006 45 schools have received violations that range from cars with frozen brake pedals to not enough books and instructors in the classroom. One mother, Susan Sigman, thought she put her 16-year-old daughter Lauren in good hands with the school she selected. Then, during an in-car driving lesson the brakes failed at 55 mph. The car was able to coast to a stop without hitting anything, but the situation could have been tragic.

Parents are often advised to take the time to investigate the driving school they chose. However, when the undercover reporter asked three of the schools with violations if they had any violations they all told him no. When he spoke to an owner of two of the schools he said, “Those are just words on paper”.  While the schools all fixed their violations, or were closed down, it is still disturbing that so many schools would have cars unfit to be on a road, or classrooms unsuitable for learning. One school was even caught giving diplomas to students for accomplishing only a fraction of the in-car requirement.

Parents are also advised to look at the cars and make sure they are well maintained. In a perfect world everyone would be able to look at a car and be able to tell if the brakes were in good shape, if the tires were worn, if the shocks were good, and if the belts under the hood needed replacing. But from my experience working with parents, many can’t do this. Parents need to learn because your child needs to learn how to do these things, but when investigating a driving school I suggest you bring someone with you who does know about these things. Try not to pay your mechanic to go with you, but if you have that friend that does some work on his car, ask him to tag along.

Parents are also told to research the company. The BBB is a good place to start, but not all problems are reported. One of the schools with violations has a B+ on BBB, and the BBB doesn’t report violations only complaints.When I googled the same school I could not find any indication that they had violations.

As for going to your state’s or county’s Web site to try and find violations, I have found that it is incredibly difficult to find this information online. If you google “Orange County driving school violations” all the results are for court ordered driving school to remove violations from your driving record. I also could not find the information on the State’s public safety page or the DMV page.

In Los Angeles, restaurants need to clearly display their health code rating on the front window of the establishment,

Restaurateur with clearly visible health code rating

so everyone going in knows if they have an A or a B or heavens forbid a C. There is a Web site where you can search your favorite restaurant and see how it does, and even what the infractions are. My favorite Vietnamese place has the habit of thawing meat in water that’s not running. But I still eat there, because I don’ t leave the water running when I thaw meat either. Restaurants are also checked far more frequently. In Ohio driving schools are inspected ever year with a full inspection that looks at cars every other year.

A lot more people die on the road every year than die of food poisoning, and yet when it comes to driving schools, establishments that have teenagers lives in their hands, it is near impossible to see how they rank.

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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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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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