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 drivers’

It’s Teen Safe Driving Week in California

Posted by lapearce on March 22, 2010

I started this week in San Diego, teaching 60 teens how to be safe drivers at a Teens Driving for Life event. It was a great that was sponsored by San Diego Supervisor Bill Horn, San Diego Sheriff, CHP and orchastrated by my nonprofit, Driving Concepts Foundation. I sat down with one of the Sheriff officers during the day and asked him what he thought of the event. He said it was great and, “ever teen should be required to take a course like this”. That was great to hear coming from someone like a police officer. He wasn’t the only one with that opinion either. The parents were extraodinarily greatful for what their children learned and the teens left with capable and confident in their skills.

It was a great way to start off Teen Safe Driving Week.

Teen Safe Driving Week is an awareness campaign that was started by Impact Teen Driving and made possible by Senator Alan Lowenthal and Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani.

“It is crucial that we educate teens and empower them to promote the safe driving message in order to have a fundamental and sustained behavior shift,” said Dr. Kelly Browning, executive director of Impact Teen Drivers. “This isn’t about bad kids doing bad things, but good kids making poor choices. One poor choice can alter or end their lives and the lives of those they care about.”

The organization’s idea of educating and empowering teens is with peer-to-peer education, which has shown to have a significant impact on teen drivers. It is asking teens to develop messages to promote safe driving among their peers. The event is also launching a contest to develop software that turns phones off while driving when the driver enters *65, for *65 to stay alive. Get it, it rhymes.

]I hope there is a driving component to next year’s event. It is great to talk to people about the problem and to get teens involved to talk to each other about the problem, but talking doesn’t help when a car is out of control. Driving skills and car control is what can bring an out of control car back in control safely. Speed management, space management, being aware of what is happening around you and being able to recognize dangers can help prevent that car from going out of control in the first place.

Dr. Browning is right, this isn’t about bad kids doing bad things, but about good kids making poor choices. We need to show them how to make the right decisions by getting in the car with them and showing them what to do in a safe, controlled environment.

Hopefully Senator Lowenthal or Assemblymember Galgiani will agree with me. Heck, Driving Concepts Foundation will even put on the event 🙂


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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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Nebraska blantently ignores safe driving recommendations

Posted by lapearce on January 27, 2010

Earlier this month Nebraska was named the worst state in the union for new drivers due to its pathetically lacking laws and enforcement of the recommended graduated drivers license requirements. You would think after being named the worst state in the nation for new drivers that Nebraska would try to increase its enforcement of new drivers to try and safe lives, but instead, the exact opposite is happening: Nebraska legislatures are trying to allow 14-year-olds to drive.

Now, I apologize for all the poor busy Nebraska parents who are simply too busy to shuttle their brood to school events, but I can’t be sympathetic. Form a carpool for Christ’s sake, have your kids walk, but to put the lives of your children and other Nebraska drivers at risk because you don’t like to drive your child around is a pretty sad and pathetic excuse, especially since parents in practically every other state seem to do it just fine without their 14-year-olds operating a 2-ton piece of machinery capable of over 100mph.

The new law would allow 14-year-old students living a mile and a half from school (i.e. biking distance) to drive to school functions. This privilege is already extended to rural students who likely don’t have the offerings of a bus route, or parents willing to put their child’s safety over their own schedules.

Senator Dennis Utter says that despite the fact that the younger the teen is the more likely they are to crash, and despite the fact that it is recommended that children don’t get their permits until they are sixteen, there isn’t much opposition to the bill just safety concerns raised about having more young drivers on the road.

Nebraska, get your head out of the sand and look around. You can’t drop lower than the worst state for driving laws, but you seem to be making every attempt to rank #51 next year.

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Ohio honors safe teen drivers with Lights for Life

Posted by lapearce on November 16, 2009

No, Ohio does not need to tell its drivers to turn their headlights on at night, most of them (hopefully) already know to do this. Ohio is actually trying to honor the increased safety of its teen drivers and to raise awareness of teen driving safety and the cause behind crashes involving teen drivers by asking Ohio drivers to keep their headlights on at all times in an effort they call “Lights for Life“.

Of course, most crashes caused by teen drivers aren’t due to a lack of headlights, so hopefully the point gets across.

Ohio is using this nifty little PR tactic in conjunction to Ohio’s first Youth Traffic Safety Summit held by SADD members. SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions, is a very important peer group that has been active in reducing crashes across the nation. The organization hopes to have 300 students and state legislators attend the summit.

39 percent of Ohio’s crashes were caused by young drivers (15-25)  in 2008. The leading causes were: following too close, failure to yield and excessive speed. Most crashes happen on the way home from school. So far in 2009 there have been about 65,500 crashes that involved young drivers, down from 70,000 this time last year.

So keep those headlights on in Ohio, but more importantly, remember why they are being kept on and if you are a parent, be an active part in your child’s driving education to ensure they aren’t 65,501 this year.

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Montana hopes class will reduce teen crash deaths

Posted by lapearce on June 15, 2009

Allstates ranking of deadliest states for new drivers (the darker the color the more dangerous the state)

Allstate's ranking of deadliest states for new drivers (the darker the color the more dangerous the state)

In Allstate’s recent study, Montana scored as one of the most dangerous places for new drivers (43rd place). While nationally, teens make up for 10 percent of drivers and 12 percent of crashes, according to Tooper Scott Waddell of the Montana Highway Patrol, in Montana, teens account for 14 percent of drivers and 28 percent of crashes that are fatal or include serious injury. Allstate ranked Montana lowest both in GDL requirements and seatbelt use among teen drivers.

The Montana Highway Patrol is hoping that its program Alive at 25 will help change these numbers in favor of new drivers. The four hour class is free and includes discussion and videos to help teens understand the risks on the road and give them solutions for handling the dangers of driving.

Montana still needs work if they hope to significantly reduce their teen driving crashes: no permits before 15 1/2, no cellphone use, no teen drivers, and required education for all new drivers, not just those under the age of 15. The MHP has the right idea to start the process, but legislatures need to step in to finish it.

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ZoomSafer hopes to take distraction away from cell phones

Posted by lapearce on June 11, 2009

My bluetooth headset broke this week. I ordered myself a new Jawbone 2, the latest and greatest in hands free communication devices from Amazon. It’s being delivered as we speak, so for right now: no cell phone while I drive for me. Even with bluetooth, I don’t like talking in the car. Your brain still gives attention to the conversation, which means less attention is on the road.

Like a lot of people, though, I feel like I need to answer calls. It may be from work, or from home, and I don’t want that person calling me to think that I’m ignoring them. Many times the calls only take a second too, a quick little “I’m driving, can I call you back?” Many teens feel the need to respond to calls, texts, emails, facebook comments, etc as soon as possible. It goes back to brain development, where teens are more emotional than rational with their thoughts. So even with the number of cell phone bans in dozens of states in this country, teens are still talking, texting, tweeting and facebooking while they drive.

Well, ZoomSafer hopes to satisfy their need. Their free software, which will be out in beta format in roughly 45 days, will be a sort of personal assistant for your cell phone when you are in your car. Miachel Riemer, founder and CEO of ZoomSafer tells me that the software will, “prevent distracted driving but still allow users to stay connected with their friends, family and social networks.”

These are the features that the software will have:

  • Activates automatically when driving
  • Reminds you to drive safely (including reminders from friends, family, celebrities, etc)
  • Optionally inform friends, family, co-workers, and social networks when and where you’re driving (can also share your location)
  • Applies preferences to manage inbound communications (including the “out-of-office” replies we call auto-toots)
  • Suppresses unwanted alerts (SMS and emails still arrive you just don’t get alerted until you are done driving)
  • Provides a set of voice services so you can send/receive emails and text messages with your voice

Hopefully this program will help teens, and adults, drive with ease, knowing that their friends are being attended to with ZoomSafer.

You can register for the beta here. I am already signed up and will post my review after I’ve used the program.

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Rural teens twice as likey to die in crashes than city kids

Posted by lapearce on June 9, 2009

Last week Allstate released a phenomenal study that attempted to identify the most dangerous areas in the country for new drivers. In the process of their study they dispelled some myths, reinforced some facts, and shocked many people when they discovered the higher fatality rate among rural teens.

At first glance this may seem counter intuitive. City teens have to deal with far more distractions and have a lot more things to crash into than rural drivers do, and yet city teens have a fatal crash involvement rate of 25.4 per 100,000 compared to 51.5 per 100,000 for rural kids. on average The numbers vary from state to state, but everywhere they looked, teens were more likely to be killed in less populated area.

The study didn’t come to a conclusion as to why this is so, but from the information in the study a few answers come to light.

The study identified speed as the factor in the majority of deaths among teen drivers, accounting for 34.4 percent of fatalities among teens. In comparison alcohol, which parents see as a greater concern, account for 11.9 percent of fatal crashes. A trait I find in a lot of young people is that they seem to think it is ok to speed if there is no one else around. They acknowledge that this behavior is dangerous when there are other motorists, but they don’t think it is dangerous enough to avoid all together. I believe this is one of the reasons why rural areas have a higher fatality rate. There are simply more empty roads for teen drivers to test their abilities (or lack there of) on compared to crowded metropolitan areas.

Another obvious contributor to the differences between states and metropolitan areas is the level of graduated drivers license programs and seatbelt use in each state. The state with the highest fatality rate, Mississippi scored a 2 in GDL levels, and a 3 in seatbelt use while the seven safest areas all scored 4s in GDL, and the city with the lowest death rate among teens, Washington DC, scored a 4 on seatbelt use as well. Scores are on a scale of 1-4.

Comparison of Allstates fatality findings with GDL requirements by state

Comparison of Allstate's fatality findings with GDL requirements by state

The safest states for new drivers are:

  1. Washington DC
  2. New York
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New Jersey
  5. Road Island
  6. Connecticut
  7. Hawaii
  8. New Hampshire
  9. California
  10. Washington

The first thing that jumps out at me about the top ten is that most of these states have very dense population and stellar public transportation systems. DC and New York have a smaller percentage of teens driving than rural states that are far more dangerous. Fewer teens driving = fewer teens dieing.

Another shocking result from this study was that death rates increase with age, peaking at 19 before decreasing once again. It had been acknowledged for years that 16 was the most dangerous year for new drivers, but Allstate’s study showed that 19-year-olds are involved in 28.38 percent of fatal collisions among teen drivers compared to 19.47 percent for 16-year-olds. Are they driving more? Is it the fact that GDLs typically start wearing off after 16 giving teens more freedom? Allstate doesn’t explain, but it is interesting information regardless.

So what is the take away of this study?

  • Speed kills
  • Seat belts save
  • Graduated drivers licenses make an impact
  • New drivers become more dangerous before becoming less dangerous
  • States with good public transportation (i.e. fewer teen drivers) have fewer teen driving deaths

Aside from moving into the city, what can you do to give your rural driver a better chance?

  • Discuss risks on the road with your teen and make sure there are consequences if they are irresponsible
  • Mandate seatbelt use
  • If your state has poor GDL laws enforce your own
  • Consider installing a GPS unit or other monitor on your child’s car to ensure that they are not speeding
  • Take away the keys if you feel it is necessary

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AAA finds teens kill others more often than themselves

Posted by lapearce on March 9, 2009

It has been confirmed that the teen car crash death epidemic in the United States has an even larger effect on other people than it does on the under-educated teen driver.

AAA released a study last week that revealed that teen drivers kill twice as many passengers, occupants in other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, etc than they do themselves. According to AAA, “Nationally, between 1998 and 2007, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed 28,138 people, of whom 10,388 (36.9%) were teen drivers themselves. The remaining 17,750 (63.1%) deaths included 8,829 passengers of the teen drivers, 6,858 occupants of other vehicles operated by adult drivers, and 2,063 non-motorists and others.”

Now, there is good news, teen drivers are becoming better drivers due to Graduated Drivers License programs, which California does have. However, AAA says that 49 states fall short of the AAA guidelines for these programs. AAA also strongly urges the involvement of parents, which California doesn’t do. Why not have the parents attend a portion of driver’s ed with their child? Or offer a separate program to instruct parents on how to best teach their children how to drive?

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