Safe teen driving in an age of distracted living

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Spring Edition of Family Business Quarterly

Dr. Kelly Browning, Executive Director of ImpactTeenDrivers in Sacramento, Ca.

No LOL.

New research shows that safe teen driving is about training for competency and state driving laws are structured differently. New drivers 18 years or older are not required to receive the training and provisional licensing, and they are less safe that younger teens with learner’s permits.

Dr. Kelly Browning is the Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers, a Sacramento non-profit dedicated to promoting a safe teen driving culture through awareness and education. “Turning 18 years old is not a magic number,” Browning said. “Parents need to understand that they are the ones ultimately who determine what is right for their child. And each child may be different.”

According to Browning, the amount of supervision is key. If your child is not making good decisions, whether or not they have their license, then they should not be granted complete autonomy until they demonstrate safe driving competency.

Browning points to new research, recently submitted Scott Mateson et.al, to the Journal of Safety for publication, finding that training to levels of competency for the individual is the deciding factor for safety. The trend in California is for teens to delay applying for driver’s licenses until they are no longer required by law to participate in the graduated driver’s license program (GDL). Below are the highlights of the study findings:

  • Some CA teens appear to delay licensure until age 18: No GDL or driver education.
  • 18-19 novices who avoid GDL are worse than ALL other novices, even younger teens
  • Conclusion: Driving to level of safety competency via GDL,  may benefit novices of all ages

According to Browning, the experience that promotes competency is driving in the more risky situations, such as night time, wet or snowy roads, and freeway on-ramps. Equally important is the criteria for staying focused on the road while driving and scanning the road (not distracted).

Nancy O’Dell and her stepson, Tyler, 17 years old. Tyler, has his learner’s permit and she is committed to making sure that he has the experience needed to be safe in a world that is more distracting than ever with mobile phones and other gadgets in the car. (Photo: courtesy)

Nancy O’Dell ‘Drives It Home’ for safe teen driving

Nancy O’Dell, hostess of Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, is convinced that spending more time behind the wheel with a teenager after receiving a driver’s license is a matter of life and death. Her 17-year-old stepson, Tyler, has his learner’s permit and she is committed to making sure that he has the experience needed to be safe in a world that is more distracting than ever with mobile phones and other gadgets in the car.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to chat with O’Dell about her passion for safe teen driving. What she discovered is that the amount of experience needed to be a safe teen driver cannot be found in the driver training manuals or state laws.

“Research shows that the most dangerous year of a teenager’s life is the first year behind the wheel after receiving their license,” O’Dell said. “Crashes are caused by lack of experience.”

O’Dell has partnered with the Allstate Foundation and the National Safety Council to encourage parents to check out the Drive It Home campaign.  “There are great tips about how to get past your teen’s inexperience,” she said. “You can set the terms for the driving privilege beyond the limits of the law after receiving a license, including no access to mobile phone (put it in the back seat), when to carry passengers, and driving in wet or stormy weather conditions.”

Legislation on distracted driving

California state law provides the following prohibitions regarding mobile phones and driving:

  • Ban on hand held devices for all drivers
  • Ban on all mobile devices (hands free and hand held) for bus drivers
  • Ban on all mobile phone use for novice drivers
  • Ban on texting for all drivers

To learn more about the rules for the provisional license go to: Cal Driver Ed Requirements

Can legislation keep up with technology when it comes to distracted driving?

Google’s next big product launch, Glass, is head gear in beta testing that puts the smart phone screen in your field of vision much like the holograph on StarTrek the next generation, or The Terminator viewing data and instructions. (See video below)


The anticipation of Google Glass inspired preemptive legislation in West Virginia to make it illegal to wear the Google fashionable mobile device while driving, as reported in Hands Free Info last month.  The main concern raised is that laws on the books make driving with “hands free” devices legal. Google Glass would be hands free, but would also interfere with your field of vision while driving.

Chris Crochran is the Public Information Officer with the California State Office of Transportation Safety. “In general we can say that safe driving means that all your concentration needs to be on the road, and anything that interrupts either your physical, visual or mental attentiveness is potentially dangerous,” he said.

The question remains, will more laws make us safer?

Adrian Quintero is the Public Information Officer for The California Highway Patrol, Valley Division (Sacramento).

Adrian Quintero is the Public Information Officer for The California Highway Patrol, Valley Division (Sacramento). According to Quintero the distracted driving problem for teenagers is largely a matter of family business.

“We are all put at risk by distracted driving,” Quintero said. “Families set their own boundaries and parents need to communicate and enforce what they expect of their child when he is behind the wheel.”

Quintero requires his 17-year-old to put the mobile phone in the trunk of the car while driving so there can be no temptation. “There is a natural anxiety about responding to texts,” he said. “So I have her put the phone in the trunk so she can focus on driving safely.”

***

News feeds stream in weekly about different states passing laws to ban devices and apps, which may become a fool’s errand. Google Glass illustrates this point. There will never be a more important law than that which parents establish at home for teen drivers to become competent defensive drivers. Resources like Impact Teen Drivers and Drive It Home provide an excellent resource for parents in this regard.

John Ulczycki is the Group Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for the National Safety Council.

“The most important thing we can do for our teenage drivers is model the way we want our children to drive,” Ulczycki said. “The number one reason teens get into crashes is because of inexperience, and they need to witness how it is done correctly starting at a very early ages as passengers in your car.”

John Ulczycki, Group Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for the National Safety Council

Below are some helpful insights from Ulczycki:

  • Parents make the rules at home about driving to fit each child based upon their individual strengths and weaknesses (you can require more hours of practice than the law, for example)
  • Do not allow the mobile phone to distract either of you from the important business of driving
  • Teach your children to scan the road to anticipate traffic flow, ask your teen driver what she sees ahead as you are accompanying her for practice
  • Enforce the provisional license because kids are easily distracted by others in the car
  • Give your teen plenty of practice with you driving in all conditions, such as wet roads, rush hour traffic and night time
  • Once your teen is granted a license, keep riding with them and lower the risk of accidents
  • Keep practicing the challenging stuff, entering the highway, pulling out of a parking lot and left turns

For more about training your teen to be a safe driver go to:

Proceed to next article: Why having a good relationship with yourself matters for your children

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Spring Edition of Family Business Quarterly

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Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays.

 

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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