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 driving law’

Will New Jersey’s New Teen Driving Law Make a Difference?

Posted by lapearce on March 27, 2010

An example of the New Jersey new driver sticker

New Jersey’s Kyleigh’s Law is no doubt controversial. A lawsuit arguing that the law was unconstitutional was just thrown out, paving the law for the law that would require drivers under the age of 21 to have a decal on their license plate to identify themselves as having provisional licenses. So will this only cause new drivers problem by identifying them without actually leading to saved lives? Will teens just take the stickers off leaving them pointless? Or will they actually make a difference? 

A lot of states have provisional licenses that put certain restrictions on teen drivers that regular drivers don’t have. However, these laws are difficult to enforce. It is difficult for a police officer to look at a driver for a few seconds as they pass by and ascertain if they are young enough to have a provisional license and if they are breaking a provisional law. Because of that, a lot of police just don’t enforce provisional laws unless the driver is breaking another law at the same time. In an article about a recent change to Indiana provisional laws the police said that they see the laws more as a deterrent and hope that people just follow the laws. 

Even though a lot of states see provisional laws as being secondary offenses that they can add onto a ticket after pulling a teen over for braking another law, or just expect teens to voluntarily comply with the laws, believe it or not, these laws do work. Provisional licences actually reduce crashes by 19%. For every teen that ignores the laws, there are a handful more that follow at least some of the laws some of the time, which helps keep deaths down. The fear a lot of teen have about being pulled over and punished by their parents also does have an impact on how teens drive. They don’t want to get caught doing something they aren’t supposed to do  by a police officer, and many don’t want to risk losing their license in the process.

This is why I think that Kyleigh’s Law will make a difference in New Jersey. New Jersey already has some of the nation’s toughest teen driving laws. It is also ranked one of the best states to be a new driver because of its tough stance on new drivers. People who argue that it is unconstitutional by “unfairly” singling out teens are really missing the point here. Driving is a privilege, not a right. And if it is unconstitutional to put a sticker on a teen’s car it should be unconstitutional to restrict any drivers in any way. The one thing I don’t like about this law is that it’s just another example of states looking at legislation instead of education to solve the teen driving problem. If we just taught our new drivers how to drive we wouldn’t need half the laws we have restricting them. But we’ve chosen the legislative route to saving lives and it is just so unfortunate. The roads would be a safer place if all of the proceeds from the sale of these stickers went to in-car drivers training. All fines for all teen driving law infractions should go to this to help stop the problem before it ends in the death of a teen like Kyleigh and a demand for yet another law.


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An open letter to the lawmakers of Nebraska in regards to teen driving laws

Posted by lapearce on February 7, 2010

Recently Nebraska introduced LB831 which would allow some fourteen-year-olds to drive to school. I am adamantly against allowing children this young to drive because of the inherent dangers. The argument for the bill is that it will save parents time. The argument against the bill is that it will cost young drivers their lives. This is the letter I have just sent to Sentator Utter, who introduced the bill, and the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. If you agree that it is dangerous to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive please send them a letter too.

Email addresses:;;;;;;;;

Dear Senator Utter,

My name is Lauren Pearce, I am a teen driving instructor out of California and I am writing to urge you not to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive in your state. In the article I read on the bill you have proposed you mentioned that there hasn’t been much opposition to your bill other than “safety concerns raised about having more young drivers on the road.” I am here to offer some more reasons against letting children this young out on the road the most important one being saving the lives of young Nebraskans.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America. Each year over 5,000 teens lose their lives in accidents; more than murder, suicide or drugs. Yet, for some reason, most people in the United States are completely unaware of this fact. For example, last year 4,000 Americans died of swine flu compared to 5,000 teens in car crashes, but which epidemic received more coverage? The sad thing is: teen driving deaths are just as avoidable as flu deaths if lawmakers, state DMVs and parents were to become aware of the problem and the solution that is out there.

The younger a teen driver is the more likely they are to be killed while driving. Teens who drive at fourteen are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sixteen-year-old. Sixteen-year-olds in turn are more likely to crash than seventeen-year-olds, who are more likely to crash than eighteen-year-olds. The chances of being involved in a crash steadily decreases with age as drivers gain maturity. If you compare a crash risk of a sixteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old who have both been driving for the same amount of time, the eighteen-year-old will be safer and less likely to crash because of their increased maturity over the sixteen-year-old. To let fourteen-year-olds out on the road knowingly with the maturity level they possess isn’t just a safety concern for other drivers: it is murder.

I have a fifteen-year-old sister. I am very aware of the maturity level of children this age. My sister is a good student; she is mature for her age and has friends that are beyond her in years. But I would not hand her the keys to a 2-ton vehicle capable of triple digit speeds and say “go drive to school”. Because I love my sister and I want her to make it to sixteen.

Parents who allow teens as young as fifteen and fourteen to drive do so because they are unaware of the risks associated with letting teens of this age out on the road. I’m aware that Nebraska is a rural state and that many children have long distances to travel to school. So what’s next? Do we allow eight-year-olds to drive to save parents the hardship of driving them to elementary school? It parents can drive thirteen-year-olds to school why can’t they also drive fourteen-year-olds?

I grew up in a rural community far from the local high school. I woke up at 5:00AM very morning to get on the 6’o-clock bus to school. The bus would finally reach campus an hour and a half later. Every afternoon I did the same trip in reverse and typically didn’t get home until about 4:00PM even though class was out around 2:00. I did this day in and day out without any other options because in California you cannot drive until you are sixteen. Never did I or my parents consider attempting to change the law just to make it more convenient for us.  We endured like everyone else. I do not see how this should be any different in another state.

I cannot muster even an ounce of sympathy for the parents who want this law, because they are unaware of the potential harm they are bringing to their children. Setting up a carpool or taking your child to school is a far better alternative than having your flesh and blood killed in a car crash because they lack the experience and knowledge to operate a motor vehicle. Is that really worth the time saved for a parents?

I’m not sure if you are aware, but last month a third party organization, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, released its yearly review of states’ teen driving laws. Nebraska was dead last on the list with only 6.5 teen driving laws. In comparison the leader, the District of Columbia, has 13.5 laws.  DC also has a lot less teen fatalities than rural states like Nebraska, one of the reasons being the increased driving laws. Instead of attempting to improve your state’s standing and moving up this list, your law will only save Nebraska’s spot as the worst state for teen drivers for next year. It will cost the lives of teenagers as well as other motorists and make your state more dangerous and more deadly.

Laws alone cannot save lives. What we need is better driver’s education and parental involvement. Defensive driving courses where teens are put behind the wheel of real cars on a closed course are the best way to save lives. At these classes teens are taught maneuvers that will help them avoid crashes and also become aware of their limits as drivers and the limits of their vehicles. It is so much safer for a teen to learn his/her abilities when the only item he/she can hit is a cone, not a tree or another car. The benefits of programs that teach these skills in this way have been confirmed by AAA and other organizations; it’s unfortunate that more lawmakers aren’t aware of the benefits of defensive driving classes.

Parental involvement also reduces crashes significantly. Connecticut has had a lot of success with its new mandated two-hour education class for parents. I suggest that Nebraska also bring parents into the education process and help them understand the risks and challenges of new drivers and how they can help protect their teen through involvement.

Teen car crashes cost states millions of dollars each year. Better education, laws and parental involvement will save money as well as lives. Please, before you allow more young drivers on the road educate yourself to the dangers it will bring to them and other drivers and decide of the ends really justify the means in this case:

Thank you for your consideration,

Lauren Pearce

Posted in advocacy, Graduated Driver's Licenses, law, parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New Pennsylvania driving laws will fund driver’s education

Posted by lapearce on February 1, 2010

Chairman of the House Transportation Committee in Pennsylvania, Rep. Joseph Markosek, knows that it takes more than laws to get people to change how they drive, “People have a responsibility when operating a 4,000-pound battering ram… We can only legislate up to a certain point.” Few truer words have ever been spoken by a member of government on driving.

This if new driving laws are passed 75 percent of the revenue from tickets issued for breaking the laws will go directly to distracted driving education. I wish the funds would go into driving education instead of just distracted driving education, which only focuses on a small part of the driving problem and doesn’t do anything to teach people how to drive, but with the insanity of driving laws and the poor standards of education that exist in this country anything is an improvement.

The bill that has been passed by the House but still awaits passage by Senate, would make talking on the phone while driving a primary offense for all drivers, meaning a police officer could pull you over if you are on the phone but not breaking any other laws.  Not wearing a seat belt will also be a primary offense for teen drivers and new drivers will be required to have 65 hours of in car practice before they get their license instead of 50 hours (so a lot more kids will be forging their driving logs).

The legislation still needs to be merged with Senate legislation then approved by the governor. It’s a good step in the right direction even if it is a small one. Pennsylvania would get more bang-for-its buck if it stepped up driver’s ed to focus more on driving skills and defensive driving instead of focusing on short-sighted campaigns that only talk about the dangers of cellphones and maybe have participates do a quick driving course with a phone attached to their ear.

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Study finds teens like to learn the hard way while driving

Posted by lapearce on July 21, 2009

A recent study by the George Institute for International Health out of Australia found that teens often times do not listen to the warnings given to them in driver’s education and instead insist on learning the hard way out on the road. The study found that driver’s education does not encourage teens to drive safely and only the fear of repercussions (i.e. tickets) will force teens to drive safely.

“No one has been able to demonstrate any really good safety benefits in driver education in giving people information about risk.” said Associate Professor Rebecca Ivers.

I agree with Ivers. Yes, I am a driving instructor and I agree with her that driver education does not give people information about risks. That is because it doesn’t, and that is why I do not teach for a DMV approved school, but for a non-profit that focuses on teaching what the risks are, why they exist and what drivers can do to avoid them.

Current DMV drivers education is absolutely worthless in this country. We tell teens what to do and what not to do, but we don’t show them the why. Failing to give proper explanation or illustration for the rules we expect them to follow just encourages them to push the envelope, in my opinion.

I don’t think we can rely on the police to encourage teens to drive safety either. There aren’t enough of them to enforce the laws to make that big of an impact, especially now as budget cuts are hitting every level of government. Teens need to be afraid of their parents as well. Parents NEED to be able to wield control over their teens with clearly laid out rules and punishments for not following them. Here is a great article in the Examiner about one inattentive teen with a lead foot, and parents who would not enforce the rules they set to protect her from herself.

Everyone who is involved in teen driving knows that the current driver’s education isn’t up to par. But at the same time, states that don’t require driver’s ed have more crashes than states that do require it. It obviously has some impact on how new drivers act on the road, but it can have so much more. We need to mandate car control/defensive driving in our driver’s education classes! We need to show teens the risk so that they don’t find it on their own.

Currently Congress is looking to enact STANDUP, a law that would have nation-wide teen driving laws, instead of on a state-by-state basis right now. This law does not have any provision for defensive driving training. Please write the authors of STANDUP and your representatives (link on right hand side) and urge them to look into this as a way to fix our broken driver’s education.

Posted in DMV, dmv driver's training, driving school, Graduated Driver's Licenses, Studies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New York comes through with teen driving law!

Posted by lapearce on July 16, 2009

Crash caused by a cell phone

Crash caused by a cell phone

I had given up on New York after the legislature showed that they were more concerned with who was in charge than doing their job. However, late is better than never. Today, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would require 50 hours behind the wheel training (up from 20), require learning permits for six months, restrict non-relative teen passengers to one if no adult is in the car, as well as ban cell phones, texting and all other electronic use (including ipods) for all drivers. Gone, however, is the language that would not allow teens to bargain against speeding tickets. A seat belt requirement was removed from the bill earlier in the year.

This legislation is much needed in New York. I  don’t know how anyone could argue that texting while driving is safe. The restrictions on passengers and the increease in behind the wheel time will only help, not hurt. So why 57 percent of News Day readers think the current laws are good enough, that I don’t understand. I don’t think they realize how dangerous it is out there for new drivers. And that is part of the problem.

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Indiana: new teen driving laws will be difficult to enforce

Posted by lapearce on July 4, 2009

I’m sure many of us already knew this. Police say that they don’t have the resources or manpower available to pull over every driver who looks like they are under 18 using a cell phone, or breaking one of the other new laws.

“We’re expecting voluntary compliance. We’re expecting parents to reinforce it with their young driver.”Sergent Dave Bursten of the Indiana State Police  said.

Now it isn’t that I don’t understand the concept, it’s just that I know it doesn’t work. Take speed limits for example. Enforcement on speeding is relatively high compared to other moving violations, in my opinion, and the penalties can be pretty steep: multiple points on your license, losing your license, hundreds of dollars in fines, etc. Many states have stricter penalties for teen drivers who are caught speeding, such as automatic license suspensions. And yet, teens still have the highest rate of speeding of any drivers on the road. They also still have more crashes because of speeding than any other group. No voluntary compliance here.

Then you need to consider the parents. In survey or parents Allstate conducted 60 percent of parents were completely unaware or only vaugely aware of graduated driving laws. Most of them also allowed their teens to take part in dangerous activities, such as driving with passengers or after dark. Parents don’t know the laws and they don’t know the risks, making it difficult to fall back on them for enforcement.
If the police don’t have the man power, the teens don’t have the self control, and the parents don’t have the knowledge, how does anyone expect any graduated driving law in any state to be very successful? Yes, there have been moderate reductions in crashes and deaths associated to these restrictions, so they aren’t completely pointless, but until the government figures out a way to enforce them, convince teens to follow them and inform parents of what the laws are then they will continue to only have moderate success.

Posted in Graduated Driver's Licenses | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Day of recogning: new teen driving laws in Indiana take effect

Posted by lapearce on July 1, 2009

The day that teen drivers in Indiana have been dreading, and teen driving advocates have been waiting for is here. Starting today, teen drivers in Indiana will be under stricter restrictions on the road: no cell phones for drivers under the age of 18, no driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. or passengers under the age of 25 for the first six months.

The law is a good step in the right direction for Indiana. And as much as teens will not like it, taking away phones, night driving and passengers is a great way to save lives, as all three circustances greatly increase the chance of crashes, especially in new drivers.

Unfortunately, I feel in the next few years we are going to be seeing more and more studies about the ineffectiveness of bans like this. Recent surveys in Texas and Colorado showed that teens still use their phones while they drive, even though they are aware of the dangers. Passengers are also a touchy subject for teens. They want to ride with their friends, and many feel as though they have to as their parents push them to carpool. This may save mom and dad some time, but it drastically increases their teen’s chance of a car crash.

When it comes to restrictions and bans for new drivers a lot of the time the teen and the parent doesn’t understand the dangers that have lead to the ban. They may know that texting while driving is inherently dangerous, but they don’t understand that how it impacts your reaction time and ability to drive is the same as alcohol. Even if they understand this, the “it won’t happen to me” mentality is difficult to overcome unless a crash does happen to them, or someone they know.

Laws like this are designed to give teens incentive to be good drivers. Talk on the phone, get a $500 ticket. They hope that the fear of getting the ticket will keep teens off the phone, off the road at night and alone. But if they don’t enforce the laws, that fear will go away. Whats more is there are more ways that teens can be given these incentives.

The first way is through the parents. You don’t need to wait for your state to pass laws like this to put these restrictions on your child. Set up a parent/teen driving contract and state what they can and cannot do behind the wheel and what the punishments are if they do not abide by the rules you have set. Maybe if they get caught talking on the phone they lose their phone for a week, or lose their privilege to drive on the weekends. This should be done for all new drivers, but if you are looking for a way to fortify safe driving even more, look for a quality teen car control clinic in your area.

When shopping around ask if they address distracted driving. The best programs are in-car where the teens are put through an obstical course while pretending to be on the phone, or having an instructor next to them trying to distract them. They go through the course a few times without the distraction, and just as they start to get the hang of it, you make them do it again distracted. The difference in their performance is astounding, and it is a message that can stick with the teen, because it helps remove the “it can’t happen to me” mentality.

Don’t rely on legislatures and police officers to protect your teens on the road. Take an active roll in their education and make sure they get the best education available. Laws need to be actively and strongly enforced to be effective, but education is something that is always with you.

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West Virgina teen driving laws change July 10

Posted by lapearce on June 21, 2009

Fifteen-year-old Kenny Collins said he often sees students carry up to 10 of their friends to school in the beds of their pickup trucks.

"Fifteen-year-old Kenny Collins said he often sees students carry up to 10 of their friends to school in the beds of their pickup trucks."

West Virgina has been lagging behind on the recommended restrictions on graduated driver’s licenses that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has recommended. They’re fixing that next month, however, as they adopt the advice and upgrade their GDL status to “good” under the IIHS’s rating system, the highest rating available.

What does this mean for teen drivers in West Virgina? In three weeks drivers under the age of 17 won’t be able to drive unsupervised after 10 p.m., no non relative teen passangers for the first six months of driving, are required to have 50 hours of driving before they get their license, and now can be pulled over and cited for cell phone use.

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New laws take effect next month in Indiana

Posted by lapearce on June 10, 2009

If you have a new driver, a child who will be driving soon, or are a new driver in Indiana, make sure you are aware of the new laws going into effect July 1.

Starting July 1 drivers under the age of 18 cannot drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the first six months of their license. They also must wait six months before driving with teen passengers. Remember to turn that phone off too, starting July 1 cell phone use, aside for in emergency situations (i.e. calling 911 not helping your friend through a breakup) will be banned.

the law hopes to reduce the number of crashes among teen drivers, crashes that injured or killed over 800 Indiana teens in 2007.

The comment on the story linked above shows how few people understand how important legislation like this is:

…and who is going to enforce this worthless piece of legislation? There are more important things for police to be doing than trying to guess someone’s age and then stop them for talking on the phone. This is useless crap. –Derek

When more teens die every year on our roads than all military casulalties from the Iraq War, I’m not really sure what more important things there are for police to focus on, at least not from a road enforcement perspective. After all, aren’t police here to protect us and save lives?

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