Click here to listen to the interview

Bill Wade operates an advanced driving safety program for teens that gives them a first hand look at challenging driving situations and the opportunity to react to them under controlled conditions.  Operated with assistance from members of the Porsche Club of America and the BMW Car Club of America, Tire Rack Street Survival will train teen drivers at 100 events this year.

Young drivers are be presented with many of the real-world challenges that they may someday confront on the road: sharp turns, wet roads, tailgaters, and a host of other hazards.  All under the watchful eye of a trained instructor.

In this interview Bill shares the genesis of the program more than 10 years ago and walks the listener through a typical day of eye-opening training.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and from Virginia to California, the traffic safety community has a simple message for drivers: One Text or Call could Wreck it All.

DOT has worked hard for several years to end the deadly epidemic of distracted driving.  But to kickoff this month, I want to thank the States for their efforts in this important safety fight.

Distracted Driving is no joke

In California, where texting and talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving are against the law, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and more than 200 local law enforcement agencies will crack down on drivers text messaging and talking on their cell phones behind the wheel.  Is the California law working? Just two years after the state’s ban went into effect, road fatalities had fallen 22 percent. Read more: http://fastlane.dot.gov/2012/04/april-is-distracted-driving-awareness-month.html

Tire Rack Street Survival hosted its first ever Best Practices Summit this past weekend at the South Pointe Resort in Las Vegas. Conducted as a joint effort all day Sunday by teams from the BMW CCA and SCCA Foundations; the conference included talks by various Street Survival key volunteers, with a rousing keynote speech by Ronn Langford of MasterDrive.

With an agenda carefully crafted by Bill Wade, Street Survival National Manager; Bruce Smith, BMW CCA Foundation Trustee; with Jeff Jacobs and Raleigh Boreen, SCCA Foundation Trustees – The Street Survival Summit gave a room filled to capacity of volunteers the opportunity to interact with a community of peers, all of whom offered solutions to many of the challenges faced by the program. The conference focused on themes such as fundraising strategies, expanding volunteer participation, site selection, and building partnerships.

The event was subsidized in part by grants from Tire Rack and Michelin NA; and was the site for the long-awaited announcement that Enterprise Holdings will be coming on board as a partner sponsor of Street Survival in 2012.

Although the report from the Governors Highway Safety Administration shows a disappointing increase in deaths among 16- and 17-year-old drivers in the first half of 2011, the longer-term data in the report highlight the success of graduated driver licensing (GDL). A decade of legislative victories improved teen driver licensing systems and led to eight consecutive years of falling fatality levels from 2003 to 2010. Teen driver deaths have fallen more than 50 percent during the 15 years since passage of the nation’s first three-stage GDL system in 1996. The pace of new GDL enactments has slowed considerably during the last couple years, however. If state legislatures continue to improve licensing processes for teens, we can resume our progress in keeping teens safe on the road.

As an advocate on teen driver safety for more than 75 years and a leader in advocacy and research into better teen licensing, AAA concurs with report recommendations that improving laws and increasing compliance with state GDL systems are two key opportunities to resume the downward trend in teen driver deaths.

Graduated driver licensing has been shown to be highly effective at reducing teen crashes, deaths, and injuries, but it is not our only path to improving teen driver safety. Parents play a key role in setting rules and working with their teens to become safe teen drivers. AAA has a range of programs that can help parents keep their teens safe on the road, from driver education classes and parent-teen driving agreements to our award-winning teen driver safety website for families, www.teendriving.aaa.com.

via AAA

Teens who think of themselves as thrill-seekers and who believe their parents don’t set rules are among the most likely to drive with other teens in the car, which in many states violates graduated licensing laws, a new study finds.

And a second study of teens involved in serious accidents found that for those carrying other teen passengers, distraction and risky driving behavior often played a role.

It’s long been known that having teen passengers increases a teen driver’s crash risk, according to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia researchers, but it hasn’t been well understood how this these passengers actually increase crash risk.

“These studies help us understand the factors that may predispose teens to drive with multiple friends and how those passengers may contribute to crashes by distracting the driver and promoting risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating or weaving,” study author Allison Curry, director of epidemiology at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, said in a hospital news release.

“Knowing this, we can develop programs that work in tandem with current graduated driver licensing laws that limit the number of passengers for teens during their first year of driving,” she added.

In the first study, Curry and colleagues surveyed 198 teen drivers and found that those mostly likely to transport their friends shared a number of characteristics. They considered themselves thrill-seekers, said their parents didn’t set rules or monitor their whereabouts, and had a poor understanding about the overall risk of driving.

“The good news is that that these teens make up the minority,” study author and behavioral researcher Jessica Mirman said in the news release. “Teens in this study generally reported strong perceptions of the risks of driving, low frequencies of driving with multiple passengers and strong beliefs that their parents monitored their behavior and set rules.”

The second study looked at a nationally representative sample of 677 teen drivers involved in serious crashes.

Both male and female teen drivers with peer passengers were more likely to be distracted just before a crash as compared to teens who crashed while driving alone, according to the study. Among teens who said they were distracted by something inside the vehicle before they crashed, 71 percent of males and 47 percent of females said they were distracted by the actions of their passengers.

The survey also found that male drivers with passengers were nearly six times more likely to perform an illegal driving maneuver and more than twice as likely to drive aggressively just before a crash compared to males driving alone.

Females rarely drove aggressively, regardless of whether they had passengers in the car.

“Most teens take driving seriously and act responsibly behind the wheel. However, some may not realize how passengers can directly affect their driving,” Mirman said. “Teen passengers can intentionally and unintentionally encourage unsafe driving. Because it can be difficult for new drivers to navigate the rules of the road and manage passengers, it’s best to keep the number of passengers to a minimum for the first year.”

The studies, conducted with State Farm, were published Jan. 24 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

via USA Today

Mackenzie Brown, 16, not only has a new drivers license but life-saving knowledge that comes with the privilege.

She has received the “speech” from her grandfather, John Purser, All State Insurance Agency, assisted by her mother, Bree Brown.

“I do listen to what they say,” Mackenzie said. “It helps me understand the consequences of not obeying the law.

“Thanks to them, I know that every second under the wheel is important. One mistake and you can die.”

The reality of this comment is found in statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Safety Council. These organizations note that more than 250 Georgia families lose a teen driver in a car accident each year.

In addition, numbers show that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among young drivers ages 15-20, with teen traffic fatalities accounting for 44 percent of teen deaths in the U.S.

Purser emphasized that he does not want to see any teen become a statistic.

Georgia law requires drivers under 18 to have at least 40 hours of driving with parental supervision, six of those hours at night.

Under Georgia’s graduated driver’s license program, called the Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act, drivers under 18 are prohibited from driving between midnight and 6 a.m.

For the first six months after obtaining a license, drivers under 18 may only drive with family members. After the first six months, no more than three non-family members under age 21 are allowed in the car.

The graduated license law has helped reduce teen fatalities in the 44 states that have the law. In Georgia, fatal crashes have decreased by more than a third since the law was enacted in 1997, according to a study by Emory University’s Center for Injury Control.

These numbers are one of the reasons Purser shares his experiences after a teen has received a license. The session is held with the parent’s permission.

“I want each individual to benefit from my knowledge,” he said. “I talk to them about the consequences of not obeying laws and to call a police officer in event of a wreck — even a fender bender.”

He said that a driver’s story could change if an officer is not at the scene of an accident.

Purser referenced an incident involving his daughter was a teen driver and a young woman backed into her car.

“I called the young lady’s dad and he had a different idea. He thought Bree backed into his daughter’s car. After the fact, it did not matter so we agreed to eat the expense. He paid for the damage to his daughter’s car and I assumed responsibility for mine.”

He said the incident was a learning experience for Bree, who admitted it is one she will not forget.

“I value his advice and wanted the same for Mackenzie,” she said.

Purser reminded that insurance is to protect a family in event of a mistake. He also encourages teens to consider the fact that insurance costs is based on driving records. The more wrecks they have, the more it will cost their parents.

“There are other consequences of not obeying laws,” he said. “Drinking and driving never pays. It can mean no license to operate a vehicle.”

Bree said her daughter faces a new set of challenges than she experienced. She focused on cell phones, texting and driving with devices that can be a distraction for a driver, especially teens.

“In 2011, we did a texting and driving campaign at Rockmart High School,” she said. “The idea was to ask them to take a pledge that could save their life: Don’t text and drive. We also ask that young drivers pledge to designate a texter. My daughter and I share this responsibility when riding together.”

via The Rockmark Journal

Teens need more driving practice

Recently I was at my chiropractor’s office for my regular adjustment, when a member of the staff said, “Can I ask you a teen driving question?” “Sure,” I responded, never one to miss a chance to talk about teen driving.

“My little sister is taking driver’s ed at school,” she explained, “and her teacher said there’s a bill in Trenton that would require teens to take 100 hours of driver training instead of six. Is that right? I figured if anyone would know what’s going on, it’s you.”

“Well, there is a teen driving bill making its way through the Legislature,” I noted, “but it wouldn’t expand the driver training hours.” What it would do, I explained to her, is require teens to log a minimum number of “practice” or “supervised driving” hours during the permit phase of the Graduated Driver License (GDL) program — 50 hours (10 at night) if they completed six hours of driver training (the latter is required for 16-year-olds), 100 hours (20 at night) if they didn’t complete the six hours (not required for teens 17 or older). The provision isn’t a new concept — currently 46 states and the District of Columbia require teens to log anywhere from 10 to 100 practice hours during the permit phase.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee decided at a hearing last week in Trenton, however, to remove the practice hour requirement from the bill (A3309/S3058) citing concerns about families not being able to fulfill it.

In lieu of the practice requirement, the Committee, with the sponsors’ (Wisniewski, Lampitt and Stack) and advocates’ support, left the remaining two provisions in the bill. The first lengthens the holding period for a permit from a minimum of 6 to 12 months. This isn’t a heavy lift for most New Jersey teens since the vast majority obtain their permit at age 16 and can’t take the behind the wheel driving test until they turn 17. It does, however, impact teens under 21 who opt to wait to get a permit until they’re 17 or older.

Do six additional months matter? When it comes to teens, absolutely. A longer permit phase allows teens — the age group with the highest crash risk of any on the road — to gain experience with continued supervision. And this is important, research shows that it takes 1,000 hours of driving before a novice driver’s crash risk drops substantially Recognizing that nothing kills more teens in New Jersey and nationwide than car crashes (33 in New Jersey/ 4,000 in the U.S. last year), mandating more practice will save lives.

The other requirement that remains in the bill has gotten a lot of attention in the press lately — requiring a teen under 18 years of age to attend an education program with a parent, guardian or supervising adult (i.e., an older sibling, neighbor, coach, clergy, etc.) as a pre-requisite for obtaining a permit. The one-shot, facilitated program (it’s not a multi-day training or course as some media outlets have reported) addresses teen driving risk and how and why the GDL program works to address that risk. It also promotes the importance of practice in all kinds of weather and on all types of roadways, as well as parental involvement.

The latter is critical. Research conducted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that teen drivers who report having parents who set rules and monitor their activities in a helpful, supportive way are half as likely to crash. They’re also 71 percent less likely to drive intoxicated, 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone when driving, and 50 percent more likely to buckle up.

While we await the bill’s fate, for now, if your teen is currently holding a permit or about to get one, schedule lots of practice time. I promise you that it will be time well spent. And if you’re inclined to join me in supporting the provisions of this bill, please contact your legislators.

Pam Fischer is a Washington Township-based transportation safety consultant and Leader of the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition.

via My Central Jersey

Thirty students from upstate New York honed their driving skills Saturday at the Tire Rack Street Survival School, which was held for the fifth straight year at Watkins Glen International.

The students, ranging in age from 16-20, learned maneuvers like hard-braking, skid control and accident avoidance from in-car coaches from the Genesee Valley BMW Club.

Prior to getting behind the wheel, students completed a training session.

“I’m really glad I took it because now I’m a lot more knowledgeable of what to do in a difficult situation,” said student Arianna Scaptura, of Horseheads. “Before any of this, I had no idea what I would do. I would have just hit the brakes or swerved to avoid it and not have done any of this stuff that they are teaching me now.”

Students completed a variety of exercises in their own vehicles to ensure they drove away with an understanding of their vehicle’s limitations. Also, new drivers went through a cone course to practice accident avoidance and braking, and a circle course covered in sawdust to mimic a sudden change in road conditions.

“You can’t replicate this education unless you go to a course like this,” said Diane Van Delden, volunteer coordinator and a parent of one of the participants. “It is impossible for us to teach our kids and give them this kind of exposure. They will gain a lot of information about how the car feels and maneuvers, and apply that knowledge while they are on the road, sharing it with the rest of us.”

Also, the students were given a chance to ride the Glen’s twists and turns for a Thunder Road Tour.

Last year, 50 locations nationwide hosted the Tire Rack school, which is open to any person ages 16-21. Visit www.streetsurvival.org for more information.

via The Leader

National Teen Driver Safety week begins Monday and DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey announced that DMV has taken some special initiatives to help teens and parents understand the importance of safety behind the wheel.

The Commissioner has created a special advisory committee, which first met last week, to address three key aspects of promoting safety, the state’s tough laws and training requirements for 16 and 17-year-old drivers. National Teen Driver Safety Week, started several years ago, runs from October 16-22.

“This is a time nationally and in Connecticut for reminding our youngest drivers and their parents about preparation, caution and diligence behind the wheel,” said Commissioner Currey. “Teen driving accidents are the leading cause of death in this age group and safety should never be taken for granted,” she added. DMV also sponsors a teen-safe driving video contest annually and it is announced in early October to coordinate with this specially marked week (ct.gov/teendriving).

The Commissioner, who began her term at DMV earlier this year, said she wanted to continue strong outreach to parents and teens through the work of her newly created Commissioner’s Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving. It includes safety advocates, parents, law enforcement, students, public health, state and federal officials, and others from around the state.

Juhi Gupta, a student at Mercy High School in Middletown and member of the advisory committee, said, “I don’t think teens think about the dangers of driving unless you tell them something like it’s National Teen Driver Safety Week. Students and administrators during the week should have programs to go over safety tips and other information.”

The panel’s first charge is to address three issues:

  • Creation of a new video to be shown in driving schools and elsewhere on safety measures teens and parents should know.
  • Creation of a revised and enhanced teen-parent agreement, pledge or “contract” that spells out the safety precautions and consequences at home a teen may face when disregarding those measures.
  • Creation of a parent-specific outreach program that brings information to parents on such topics as a teen brain development taking until the early to mid- 20s for full maturation, safety issues with vehicles and strategies for dealing with teens in the era of the millennial generation.

“These are very important avenues to begin reaching teens and their parents. This continues the state’s hard work in addressing this special segment of drivers, who are among the most vulnerable and inexperienced we have on the road today,” Commissioner Currey said.

Connecticut in August entered its fourth year of having toughened and strengthened teen driving laws. These measures remain among the strongest in the country. By many critical standards, Connecticut for several reasons, including continued outreach such as the programs being addressed by the Commissioner’s advisory committee, continues to show signs of improved safe driving by teens. Enforcement of the teen driving laws by police and promotion of community awareness propelled by safety advocates and parents has also contributed to this improvement.

A series of high-profile teen-driver crashes in 2007 triggered an intensive public awareness and law-changing campaign in 2008. A special task force recommended changes to teen driving laws. Adopted into law by the legislatures, the changes include longer periods of passenger restrictions for teen drivers, an earlier 11 p.m. curfew time for these drivers to be off the road except for certain situations, harder penalties through increased fines and license suspensions for violators of the laws, rigorous training requirements for study and on-the-road practice, and a mandated parent-teen information session about safe driving and teen development.

via Patch

Driver error accounts for more than three quarters of the 5,474 teenagers who die in car crashes every year. And driver distraction, along with inability to effectively scan the road ahead and driving too fast for conditions, account for half of those errors. Recognizing the dangers, Consumer Reports has joined the cause of helping teens learn to be better drivers.

We recently invited 37 teens and their parents to our Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in rural Connecticut for a day of driving skills training in conjunction with the Tire Rack Street Survival school. The school teaches kids how to better control the car in emergency situations, as well as how to stay out of them in the first place.

Learning the car’s performance capabilities in a safe environment was the most valuable part of the course, said many of the students. Katie Backman of Ridgefield, Conn., said the course “helped me feel a lot more like I know the limits of the car.”

Other students concurred. “I feel more in control. I know how fast I can go and how hard I can turn without losing control,” said Christine Piker, of Avon, Conn., after participating in the program.

In addition to classroom instruction, the students completed several on-track events designed to teach appropriate reactions to extreme situations.

  • The first exercise was designed to teach the kids how to use the brakes fully to stop the car and how to steer at the same time. Most of the students felt their ABS brakes activate for the first time in this event. And all stopped much more quickly after the first run through the course.
  • Next up were the slalom and the emergency lane change. The lane change was designed to teach kids to stay alert, with their eyes up. A flagger would wave them right or left at the last second where they would have to work to keep the car in control. Chris Krumenacker, a 17-year-old from Hamden, Conn. said he thought the avoidance maneuver was the most valuable event of the day.
  • The slalom taught the kids the transitional handling limits of their cars. They learned that the car’s weight transfers from side-to-side in a corner, as well as front-to-back, and how each weight shift affects handling. Most of the teens started timidly. As they gained more confidence and speed, in-car instructors had them try to read the last text message that had come in on their cell phones. At that point, none of the teens could successfully navigate the course.
  • At the end of the day, the kids learned skid control on a wet skidpad. Here the students could safely learn to quickly react to prevent a spin in a slick surface.

Some lessons were also taught by example. Consumer Reports Sr. Automotive Engineer Jake Fisher demonstrated the value of electronic stability control by taking kids for a ride through the avoidance maneuver we use in our routine testing with stability control turned on and off. The car veered out of control with ESC off, but stayed on course with it turned on.

Connecticut State Police Sgt. Troy Anderson brought the “seat belt convincer”– a trailer with a seat on an inclined sled that hits a barrier at just under 5 mph. This gave the students a chance to experience a low-speed collision, and they saw that even a parking-lot bump can be traumatic. Another favorite was the demonstration of an air bag popping open at 300 mph.

After lunch, Jacy Good spoke to the assembled teens. Good was severely injured in an accident that killed her parents, caused by a driver talking on his cell phone. Since her recovery, she has toured the country speaking about the dangers of distracted driving, and all who heard her recount her experience were deeply moved.

Good’s presentation, combined with the cell phone slalom exercise, had many of the kids saying they would never think they could text or talk and drive again. “That was absolutely terrifying!” said Krystal Demirali, a 16-year-old from Watertown, Conn., after mowing down several cones in the slalom course while reading the last text message on her phone. “I’ve never felt good about it, but always thought, no big deal, I can see out my peripherals. But you can’t see anything! [Driving] takes focus and you have to watch out!”

That’s exactly what the course was designed to teach.

Look for more lessons from this class to be shared online in the days ahead.

via Consumer Reports