cars

You Should Know: Keeping Back-To-School Teen Drivers Safe

Road Safety Tips for Teen Drivers
Heading Back to School

Labor Day weekend is over and summer is in the rearview mirror. New backpacks are crammed full of the tools of learning: laptops, books, pens, pencils, notebooks and more. But what about the tools young drivers need to stay safe on the road? These tips can help the teen drivers in your life get from home to homeroom in one piece.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. It is estimated that on average, six teenagers die every day in the United States from a car crash. As teens head back to school, you should know how to keep them, and others, safe.

The Stats

Teens who text and drive are  outside of their lane   about 10 percent of the time.

Teens who text and drive are outside of their lane  about 10 percent of the time.

A teen driver on the road is more likely to cause a car crash than any other driver. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Young men are two times more likely to get in a crash than young women.

If your teen driver has recently received his or her license, inexperience can spell disaster out on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are twice as likely to get in a car crash compared to teen drivers ages 18 to 19. 

Teens are also less likely to practice safe driving behavior, such as using seat belts or maintaining a safe following distance. In 2015, only 61 percent of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. [Download report.]

The Risks

Teens are also much more likely to drive distracted. Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related crashes, and 42 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Carpooling seems like a convenient way to get to school, but teens riding with other teen drivers increase the risk of distraction with every additional teen passenger. Here are all eight of the CDC danger zones most often linked to teen crashes:

  1. Driver Inexperience
  2. Driving with Teen Passengers
  3. Nighttime Driving
  4. Not Using Seat Belts
  5. Distracted Driving
  6. Drowsy Driving
  7. Reckless Driving
  8. Impaired Driving

The Parents

So, what can parents do to prevent teen driving tragedies?

  • Most important, lead by example. Forty-eight percent of young drivers have seen their parents talking on a cell phone while driving, and 15 percent of those have seen their parents texting while driving. Show your kids how to drive responsibly by driving distraction free, wearing your seatbelt and following all speed limits and traffic laws.
  • Set limits. Multiple teen passengers and late-night driving lead to more crashes. Limit the number of passengers for your teen drivers and set a curfew.
  • Buy a safe car. The car your teen drives should be reliable. Purchase from a reputable dealer, and check all cars at Safercar.gov for recalls. Make sure your young driver knows what to do if a car breaks down.
  • Practice driving with your teen. Provide your teen driver with 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months. Practice on a variety of roads, at different times of day, and in varied weather and traffic conditions. Stress the importance of continually scanning for potential hazards including other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Create a Parent-Teen driving agreement. Put your driving rules in writing to clearly set limits, as well as the consequences for not following those rules.

This article appeared in our September 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

The Dangers of Texting & Driving - Facts & Statistics

"I think we can all agree: new technology offers many benefits - computers have allowed lightning fast data processing, the internet created a global world, and mobile phones provide us with convenience and a valuable safety tool.
Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequences almost always rears its ugly head when it comes to technological advances. In terms of cell phones, one of the most dangerous consequences has proved to be a rise in distracted driving." - Misha Safranski, MoneySavingPro

Click here to learn more about the dangers of texting and driving at MoneySavingPro.

You Should Know: Pedestrians Pay the Price for Distracted Driving

Bikers, Walkers Threatened By Increase In Distracted Driving

April showers have given way to May flowers, encouraging walkers and bicyclists to get out and enjoy the weather. Long walks and leisurely bike rides can be a perfect way to soak up the sun, but busy streets with distracted drivers can be an accident waiting to wreck a lovely day. Unfortunately, when drivers are distracted, pedestrians and bikers often pay the price. This month, you should know how to keep yourself safe while you enjoy the spring season.

Use marked crosswalks :  Eighty-two percent  of pedestrian deaths occur outside the crosswalk.

Use marked crosswalksEighty-two percent of pedestrian deaths occur outside the crosswalk.

More Cars, More Walkers and Bikes, More Distractions = Higher Traffic Deaths

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2016 in traffic accidents. In 2015, more than 800 bicyclists lost their lives in motor vehicle-involved crashes. Pedestrian deaths shot up 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, bicyclist deaths by 13 percent – both more than any other category of traffic-related fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

The cause of this deadly trend has been greatly debated, with different groups pointing to a stronger economy and hence more cars on the road, more people walking to work or for recreation, and distraction due to the skyrocketing use of smartphone technology. Meanwhile, most efforts to prevent distraction are focused on motor vehicle drivers and passengers rather than pedestrians and bicyclists.

Teens Account for 25 Percent Increase in Pedestrian Deaths Over Past Five Years

Bicycle fatalities have risen sharply for adults (especially men) 20 years or older since 1975. Click for larger image.

Even if a person is not behind a wheel, they can be at risk if walking while talking on a cell phone or listening to music through headphones. Among kids, teens account for 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the United States, and unintentional pedestrian traffic injuries are the fifth leading cause of fatalities for ages 5 to 19. Older teens have accounted for a staggering 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries in the past five years. Over half of all adults have been involved in a distracted walking encounter.

Tips To Stay Safe

Walking or bicycling are healthy for both people and the environment. Perhaps that is why we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in commuter biking during the past decade. But while bicycle deaths among children have thankfully decreased by 88 percent since 1975, deaths among bicyclists age 20 and older have more than tripled. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind that will increase your chances of arriving safely at your destination, whether on foot or by pedal!

  • Look left, right and left again before crossing the street
  • Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you
  • Be aware of drivers even when you’re in a crosswalk; vehicles have blind spots
  • Don’t wear headphones while walking or biking
  • Never use a cell phone or other electronic device while walking or biking
  • If your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic
  • Never rely on a car to stop
  • Only cross at designated crosswalks (82 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur outside crosswalks)
  • Wear bright and/or reflective clothing, especially at night
  • Always wear a helmet while biking
  • Walk in groups, if possible
  • Follow all traffic laws and road signs, and signal to turn

This article appeared in our May 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

Teens 50% of All Pedestrian Deaths, Ages 5 to 19 

Traffic deaths are up 6 percent since 2010, pushing U.S. road fatalities to the highest level in a decade. However, the percentage increase in pedestrian deaths is far outpacing those on the road, jumping 25 percent from 2010 to 2015. Walkers on smartphones, bicyclists ignoring traffic rules, coupled with distracted driving, are a deadly combination. 

Teens, who are much more likely to walk distracted with a mobile device, make up 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths ages 5 to 19.

Our recommendations: 

Make sure your children understand the importance of looking both ways before they step out onto a roadway. Point out the traffic lights to them and explain their significance. Also, if an intersection is equipped with a pedestrian light, point that out to them and make sure they understand what the illuminated symbols mean. Stand on the corner for a full cycle of the light and pedestrian signal to make sure your children understand how they work and who has the right-of-way when. Never cross against the light with your children even if there is no one coming or if others are doing it. You do not want to teach your children bad habits or to take unnecessary risks. Impress upon your children that even if they have the right of way they should still look and be cautious because you can never assume that drivers are paying attention. It only takes one misstep. And finally read our May newsletter and discuss it with your children. Stay safe out there.

Guy W. Crabtree is a partner with Crabtree, Carpenter & Connolly, PLLC, in Durham, NC.

You Should Know: Justice Served Awards 2016

People Who Make a Difference

The 2016 Justice Served Awards honor each of these nominees for their commitment to a safer, more just America. Tell us which story moves you the most (see our nominating criteria below), and we’ll enter you into a drawing for a free subscription to Consumer Reports.

Hero Doctor Wouldn’t Back Down

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha continues to  lead the fight  for kids suffering from lead poisoning in Flint, Mich.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha continues to lead the fight for kids suffering from lead poisoning in Flint, Mich.

Today we all know that the ill-fated decision to switch the water supply in Flint, Mich., from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save a few bucks in the state budget caused dangerously high levels of lead in local drinking water. But if not for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a passionate young pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center, the threat of lead poisoning – especially to the children of Flint – might never have been uncovered.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha, or Dr. Mona as she is affectionately known in Flint, knew something was wrong when she started seeing a marked increase in rashes and hair loss in her little patients. She and her team analyzed hundreds of hospital records and found that the toddlers of Flint were suffering from extremely high lead levels in their blood. Knowing that it was her moral and ethical duty to share her research with the public as soon as possible, Dr. Mona held a press conference. But instead of taking action, state and local officials spent a week denouncing her findings and attacking her character before finally admitting she was right. Two weeks later, Flint’s water supply was switched back to Lake Huron, and an entire nation soon learned about this scandal.

Sen. Al Franken Fights for Your Day in Court

Senator Al Franken is leading legislative efforts to ban mandatory arbitration.

Senator Al Franken is leading legislative efforts to ban mandatory arbitration.

Senator Al Franken (Minn.) has spent years trying to protect Americans from “forced arbitration” clauses, which he calls “an attack on the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens.” These legal loopholes are increasingly found in consumer and employment contracts, mandating that disputes must be settled by binding arbitration rather than in court. Because these arbitrations are closed to the public and the arbitrators are often handpicked by the company, consumers and employees almost always lose and have no right of appeal. These clauses increasingly prohibit class action lawsuits as well, eliminating another powerful tool used by consumers to hold corporations accountable.

After a young woman working for a defense contractor was allegedly gang-raped by coworkers, Sen. Franken successfully added an amendment to an appropriations bill banning the U.S. military from doing business with companies that include mandatory arbitration clauses in employee contracts. Since then, Sen. Franken has authored legislation, including the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015 to make forced arbitration a thing of the past. This proposed law states that “no pre-dispute arbitration agreement shall be valid or enforceable if it requires arbitration of an employment dispute, consumer dispute, antitrust dispute or civil rights dispute.”

Volkswagen Lied to Customers While Polluting the Environment

Dan Carder and his small band of researchers brought Volkswagen to its knees.

Dan Carder and his small band of researchers brought Volkswagen to its knees.

Dan Carder, director of the West Virginia University Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions, knows his field of study isn’t very exciting. His research team is often overlooked and underfunded. But when the Center was commissioned to test emissions from diesel cars, the results upended Volkswagen and eventually put Carder on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

It all started in 2012 when the Center received a $50,000 grant from the International Council on Clean Transportation for an on-road test of diesel emissions standards. Volkswagen boldly claimed its diesel cars were both environmentally friendly and fuel efficient, but test after test showed that the numbers didn’t match up. In fact, Volkswagen diesels were emitting up to 35 times the safe amount of nitrous oxide gases. Eventually the company fessed up that more than 11 million vehicles were equipped with software designed to cheat on emissions tests. Since then, Volkswagen has recalled 700,000 vehicles in the United States alone and must spend more than $15 billion in settlement claims to buy back or repair the affected vehicles.

Mother Who Lost Daughter to Cyberbullying Speaks Out for Compassion

Tina Meier with pictures of her daughter Megan.

Tina Meier with pictures of her daughter Megan.

Life was looking up for Megan Meier after years spent struggling with depression and attention deficit disorder. She had just started eighth grade at a new school, had joined the volleyball team and would have her braces off soon. She also began chatting online with a boy named Josh Evans, who wanted to be her friend. Weeks later he turned on her, and soon hundreds of cruel messages about Megan were posted on a bulletin. Josh’s last message said that everyone hated Megan and that the world would be better off without her. That night Megan committed suicide. Six weeks after Megan died, her mother Tina learned that Josh never existed. His account was set up by a neighbor on their block and her daughter, a former friend of Megan’s.

Tina Meier created the Megan Meier Foundation to fight for her daughter’s legacy. The Foundation’s mission is to “Promote awareness, education, and positive change in response to issues surrounding bullying, cyberbullying and suicide.” Today Tina travels around the country, speaking to students, educators, administrators, parents, counselors, law enforcement officers and other professionals about the dangers of cyberbullying. Tina hopes that she can empower young people to celebrate individuality and accept others in order to make a kinder and safer world.

Justice Served Awards Nominating Criteria

The Justice Served Awards celebrate the stories of injured people and their families who decide to make a difference in protecting the health, safety and legal rights of others. Once a year, we ask our readers to read these remarkable stories and tell us which one touches them most, and why. Winners are chosen based on their efforts to:

  • Uncover negligence or other irresponsible behavior by organizations that put their interests ahead of the public interest;
  • Prompt government action by shedding new light on defective products, services or other practices;
  • Trigger manufacturing and quality assurance practices that lead to safer products and services; and
  • Increase public awareness that helps prevent additional injuries and protect an individual’s right to civil justice in a court of law.

 This article appeared in our August 2016 "You Should Know" e-newsletter. 

You Should Know: Cell Phones Not the Only Cause of Distracted Driving

Teens Most at Risk but Often Learn Dangerous Behavior from Parents    

Americans hate to waste time, even while driving. Whether via smartphones or the new hands-free systems standard in many vehicles today, we can talk with friends, family or business associates, search for the nearest gas station, or pull up a review of that new restaurant. Most people also think they can do all this while driving and not cause a crash. But that’s where they’re wrong: An estimated 431,000 people were injured in distracted driving-related motor vehicle accidents in 2014, up from 424,000 in 2013. The death toll was 3,179.

What exactly is distracted driving? Cell phones factor into many kinds of distractions, but there are plenty of other ways to lose focus while driving. The three types of distracted driving as identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving

This can include texting, talking on a phone, eating, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, adjusting music or reacting to the behavior of a passenger.

Texting while driving tops the list of dangerous distractions and has already been banned in 46 states. Research has shown that texting and driving is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Texting is also the communication method of choice for most young people. Therefore, it is not surprising, say many safety advocates, that drivers under 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

Parents can play an important role in teaching their teens about the dangers of distracted driving by setting a good example themselves, yet 48 percent of teens have seen their parents use a cell phone while driving. Fifteen percent have seen their parents texting while driving [download report].

Watch for Other Distracted Drivers and Pedestrians

Even if you’re a good driver and try to stay focused on the road at all times, you have to be aware of others who might be distracted. Ninety percent of adults consider distracted driving unacceptable in other drivers, yet 35 percent of those same drivers admit to driving distracted. Defensive, focused and cautious driving is your best bet to prevent an accident with a careless driver.

Another dangerous behavior on the rise is distracted walking. Even if a person is not behind a wheel, they can be at risk if walking while talking on a cell phone or listening to music through headphones. Among those 19 and under, teens account for 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths. Older teens have accounted for a staggering 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries in the past five years. Over half of all adults have been involved in a distracted walking encounter.

Stop Distracted Driving Before It Stops You

Distracted driving accidents may be on the rise, but these incidents are 100 percent preventable. Here are some commonsense tips on how you can protect yourself and others:

  • Visual distractions: Keep your eyes on the road, pull over to read directions, and put your phone away.
  • Manual distractions: Keep your phone out of reach, make all adjustments before driving, and don’t reach for items while driving.
  • Cognitive distractions: Avoid phone calls (even hands-free), stay focused on the road, and keep your emotions in check.

Also consider visiting EndDD.org for a safe driving agreement that you can print and share with your family. Together, we can keep our streets safe for pedestrians and drivers alike.

 This article appeared in our April 2016 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.