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’

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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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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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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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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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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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!

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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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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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Care about the dangers of teen driving before it effects you

Posted by lapearce on August 10, 2009

“Lance Armstrong didn’t care about cancer research until after he had cancer.”

When my sister told me this I couldn’t help but laugh at the ignorance of the comment. “Of course not,” I told her, “we only care about things until after they effect us.”

This is sad but true. Of course Lance Armstrong didn’t care about cancer research until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I bet he similarly gave little consideration to heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS or a myriad of other disorders that debilitate and kill millions each year. Similarly, a large portion of the foundations set up to inform parents and teens about the dangers of driving were set up by parents after they lost their child in a car crash.

Journey Safe was started by the parents of Gillian Sabet after their daughter was killed in a crash on her way to prom

Professional drag racer Doug Herbert started B.R.A.K.E.S. after he lost his two teen sons in a crash

Maxwell’s Pledge was created after her son was killed as a passenger in a high speed crash

Even this blog was created because I lost a wonderful neighborhood girl to a crash on December 8, 2005, a crash that I know would have been avoided with better driver’s education. Which is why I share what I have learned as a driving instructor in hopes that I can save the life of a young driver.

Doug Herbert, the founder of B.R.A.K.E.S.  said he was unaware of the dangers of teen driving until after he lost his 17 and 15 year old sons in a crash. Even though he was a professional driver he didn’t know that car crashes are responsible for 35% of teen fatalities.

A survey by Allstate found that 88% of parents think that their teen is a good driver, even though most agree that teens drive poorly. Some of these parents will learn the hard way what dangers await their young drivers. Only then will they care. Perhaps they too will start a foundation and desperately attempt to inform other parents before they too learn the hard way.

Why does it have to be this way? Car crashes kill over 5,000 teens every year. Please, for the sake of your child’s life start caring now, before it is too late.

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Texas has nation’s safest teen drivers

Posted by lapearce on July 28, 2009

The fatal crash rate in Texas decreased nearly 33 percent last year, more than double the national average. Texas has graduated driving laws, however 33 states are rated as having better GLD requirements than Texas. Also, states with similar laws did not have the same drop off in deaths as Texas did. So what is Texas’s secret? According to the Texas Transportation Institute the difference is peer programs.

These peer influence programs encourage positive peer pressure among teens. The program, “Teens in the Driver Seat” help teens teach each other about high-risk driving situations such as: night driving, drinking and driving, speeding and cell phone use.

250,000 Texas Teens have gone through the program, which motivates teens to become an active part of the solution by offering incentives to develop their own messages about safe driving. The full program currently costs Texas $1 million to run. The state has most likely saved far more than that from the reduced number of crashes.

Why do peer programs work? Alberto Torres, 17 says it well:

“Teenagers don’t always listen to adults… but we do listen to each other.”

It makes complete sense. One of the main reasons why passenger use is looked down upon for teen drivers is because of the possibility of negative peer pressure causing teens to engage in dangerous activities, such as speeding and not wearing their seat belts. If teens can have this negative impact on each other, why can’t they also have a positive impact. If it is cool to wear your seat belt or drive safety teens can be pressured into doing these things.

People who argue for the need of graduated drivers license will need to reassess their feelings after seeing what Texas has done. Texas has some of the weakest GDLs in the country. The state is also the only one in the nation to not require a behind-the-wheel test for new drivers and does not mandate formal driving education classes. For a fraction of the cost of what it would take to implement these programs Texas accomplished more by encouraging teens to help each other. It’s real food for thought for how we are handling the teen crash epidemic in this country. As I’ve been saying for a long time: simply telling teens what to do is not the answer.

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