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 laws’

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:

dutter@leg.ne.gov; fischer@leg.ne.gov; kcampbell@leg.ne.gov; tgay@leg.ne.gov; ghadley@leg.ne.gov; cjanssen@leg.ne.gov; slautenbaugh@leg.ne.gov; llouden@leg.ne.gov; astuthman@leg.ne.gov

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: http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Teen_Drivers/index.html

Thank you for your consideration,

Lauren Pearce

Advertisements

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

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

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

States ranked for teen driving laws– how did your state do?

Posted by lapearce on January 27, 2010

"Driving with a passanger after curfew I see"

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents that strive to make America’s roads safer, just released a new study they conducted on state’s teen driving laws. There are huge disparities in teen driving laws from state to state, some states let teens drive when they are 14, others won’t let you have a license until you are 17. Because of the differences from state to state it wasn’t too much of a shock when some states didn’t fare so well in this third-party review.

Ratings were given based on the number of teen laws in place by each state. It looked at seat belt, text messaging, age for learner’s permit, drunk driving laws among other driving laws.

The leader was the District of Columbia, with 13.5 laws following by New Jersey and Illinois. The worst states were:

South Dakota (only three laws)

Arizona

North Dakota

Wyoming

Virginia

Vermont

Pennsylvania

Ohio

Nebraska, rounding up the bottom of the barrel with 6.5 laws.

However, do more laws mean safer drivers? Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report ranked South Dakota as having the safest drivers in the nation, and Phoenix as having the safest drivers of all cities. Both South Dakota was rated the worst state and Arizona was also given a failing grade by the advocates. An AAA report found also that the safest states are not the ones with the strictest laws. As you may expect, when population density increases so does the risk of a collision. There is just more stuff to hit in a busy city than on a rural town- and speeds can be higher on those big freeways. So maybe these less dense states don’t need as many laws, because the risks are different?

I’ve always felt that we focus too much on enforcement and not enough on education when it comes to teaching our teens how to drive.  When your teen was a toddler, you likely had those plastic covers over the outlet to prevent them from getting electrocuted. Why? Because you knew it was a good way to prevent a potentially life threatening situation. This, is like driver’s education. You are preventing the problem by stopping it with a plug. Laws are if you told your 2 year old not to touch then expected them to listen. They might. But they might not. If you see them go for the outlet you can slap their hand and say no, but what if you aren’t there? What if a police officer isn’t around to see your child driving dangerously? Then the defenses have failed and your child is at risk.

I’m not against strict teen driving laws, I just worry that we focus so much on enforcement that we’ve lost sight of education. Instead of continuing to tell our teens no we should just put a plug in it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Texas: new teen driving laws take effect Sept. 1

Posted by lapearce on August 23, 2009

Texas has received low ratings on its teen driving laws in the past, but dispite this, the state has very safe drivers due in part to an extensive peer-to-peer program. Texas wants to help the chances of its young drivers even more by adding more restrictions on their driving during the first years they are on the road.

Effective next week Texas teens will be required to take a driving test before receiving their license. This is the norm in most other states. Restricted license time will also increase from the first six months to a year. Under the restricted license teens cannot drive at night, talk on the cell phone or have multiple passengers. Behind the wheel requirements will also increase from 14 hours to 32.

All of the new restrictions that Texas is implementing fall below the recomendations by the NHTSA and the average of most states. For example, in California the restricted license lasts for two years or until the teen is 18 and teens are required to receive 50 hours behind the wheel.

Here’s the question: if Texas teens are already among the nation’s safest with the state’s poor GDL requirements, what does that say about GDL? Is Texas a case study for why these laws aren’ the most effective way to save lives? Or, do we need to err on the side of caution and do what ever is neccessary to reduce crashes?I only worry that we’ll see GDL as a cop out and won’t look at other options becuasae we feel like we are already doing all that we can to solve the problem while we aren’t.

Posted in DMV, Graduated Driver's Licenses, parents, teen driver | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Indiana on the look out for teens on their cell phones, but how do they know who to pull over?

Posted by lapearce on July 9, 2009

Officer Matthews wants to enforce teen cell phone ban, but doesnt know who to pull over

Officer Matthews wants to enforce teen cell phone ban, but doesn't know who to pull over

Last Wednesday new driving laws went into effect in Indiana that, among other things, ban new drivers from using cell phones. Officer Randy Matthews says he’s been on the look out for chatting teens for the past week in order to enforce the law. So far, he’s pulled over none. The problem is… Matthews has no way to knowing if the driver is under the age of 18 as they drive past him.

“Unless we have prior knowledge, if we already know the driver is under 18 years of age and we see them driving with their cell phone, sure we can pull them over and cite them, but generally, it’s going to be a secondary offense if we see someone driving without a seatbelt,” Matthews said.

How effective will these laws be if Indiana lacks the man power to enforce the new graduated drivers education laws, and have trouble enforcing them even if they are looking? Sergent Dave Bursten of the Indiana State Police told the sad but true fact about these laws:

“We’re expecting voluntary compliance. We’re expecting parents to reinforce it with their young driver.”

In other words: we really can’t do anything to enforce the laws so we just hope teens and parents take it upon themselves to do so. In my opinion, unless we mark the cars of teen drivers with some indicator that they are a new driver, all defensive driving laws out there will be governed by voluntary compliance and secondary offense tickets. That is the only way to allow police officers to accurately spot and cite teens breaking the law. Until then the laws are just suggestions.

What I really worry about is that parents will feel that their children won’t be doing acts that are illegal under graduated driving laws because they feel that the laws are being enforced. I worry that a huge gap in communications and education can form between parents and teens because of assumed enforcement. In short: don’t rely on anyone else to monitor your teen on the road. Teach them what to do and have repercussions in place if they break the rules. The police may not be able to enforce the law, but you are able to enforce your own driving laws.

Posted in Graduated Driver's Licenses, law | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »