Safety Gap: Parents Impose Rules on Teen Drivers, Teens Don’t Think So

Teen drivers are at the highest risk for crashes and crash-related fatalities, and are particularly vulnerable to distractions while driving.  The results of a new nationwide survey of teens and their parents suggest a considerable disconnect between the limitations parents believe they are imposing on driving and the use of cell phones, and their teens’ view of limitations imposed by their parents. The gap in numerous instances is wide, and has raised concerns about the resulting risks to teen drivers.

In families where parents reported limitations on their teen drivers – such as restricting cell phone use, number of teen passengers and driving times and locations – teens themselves sometimes said they did not have those limitations, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, which indicated that parents play a key role in promoting the safety of their teens by setting expectations for driving.teen drive limits

“We found that the great majority of parents do have rules for their teen drivers; however, teens consistently perceive fewer limits on their driving than what their parents report. This signals an opportunity for parents and teens to have more conversations about safe driving habits,” says lead author Michelle L. Macy, M.D., M.S., an emergency medicine physician at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Parents of teens 13-18 years old and teens themselves were asked about limits placed on driving circumstances that can increase a teen driver’s risk of a crash. About nine in 10 parents report they place at least one limit on their teen drivers while eight out of 10 teens report having at least one driving limit placed on them by their parents.

Among parents and teens who both responded, teens consistently say they have fewer limits on their driving than were reported by their parents.  Overall, 81 percent of teens report having at least one driving limit placed on them by their parents. In families where parents report limits on cell phone use, 13 percent of teens say they have no limits. In families where parents report limits on passengers or driving times/locations, 20 percent of teens say they have no such limits.logo

Limits on cell phone use and texting while driving are most commonly reported by parents and their teens. Fewer limits are set on passengers and driving times/locations. As many as one-quarter of parents report placing no limits on teen passengers or nighttime or highway driving, suggesting opportunities to increase teen driver safety by encouraging parents to place limits on these high-risk driving conditions, officials indicated.  Among the key limitations parents impose, according to the survey:

Limits on cell phone use include:quote

  • requiring teens to park to use their cell phones (86%)
  • forbidding texting while driving (73%)
  • having cell phone turned off or put away (62%)

Limits on passengers include:

  • allowing only 1-2 friends in the car (59%)
  • allowing only certain friends (54%)
  • no teen passengers allowed (40%)

Limits on driving times/locations include:

  • no driving after 10 p.m. (61%)
  • driving only to/from school, work, or activities (57%)
  • no highway driving (36%)

Parents who judge their teens’ driving ability as “above average” (32% of all parents) are less likely to place limits on passengers and driving times/locations. Sixty-seven percent of parents set limits on passengers for their “above-average” teen drivers, compared with 81percent of parents who perceive their teen drivers as “below average.” Similarly, 69 percent of parents set limits on driving times/locations for their above-average teen drivers, compared with 85 parents of parents who perceive their teen as below average. In contrast, parents do not adjust their restrictions on cell phone use in relation to their teens’ driving ability.

There was greater agreement between parents and teens on limits placed on cell phones than on passengers or driving times/locations, according to the national survey, conducted in September 2015 and released earlier this year.

“This may indicate that parents communicate to their teens more clearly their expectations around cell phone use while driving than for other driving situations. It is also possible that parents and teens have greater awareness of the risks of using cell phones while driving, due to media attention on cell phone distractions as a common cause of crashes,” the survey analysis points out.

The analysis also indicated that the higher degree of disagreement between teens and parents in relation to the limits set for passengers and driving times/locations suggests the need for more dialogue in families to ensure rules and expectations around driving are understood. Written parent-teen driving agreements are one way for parents to clearly communicate rules and expectations, officials indicated.

Connecticut’s Tim Hollister, author of two books about parenting and safe teen driving and the website From Reid’s Dad, recently developed a video for parents, with financial support from the Travelers, which underscores the influence of parents in teen driving.  Hollister will be speaking on the subject at the Easton Public Library on February 10 and the Newington Public Library on February 24.  Hollister, whose son Reid died as a result of a car accident at age 17, will share information parents should know regarding teen driving and discuss his most recent book, His Father Still.


Driver Distraction Continues Almost 30 Seconds After Text is Sent, Research Reveals

Groundbreaking research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that the distraction drivers experience using voice activated technology - or their smartphones - to make a call, change music or send a text can linger for almost 30 seconds after the task is complete. “This should be a wakeup call to anyone who feels safe texting while sitting at a red light”, says AAA spokesperson Amy Parmenter. “Just because you can hit the gas when the light turns green, doesn’t mean you’re good to go.”report

Researchers studying various push-to-talk technologies found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction lasted for as long as 27 seconds after completing a task in the worst-performing systems. And, at the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time. Using the least distracting systems, drivers still remained impaired for more than 15 seconds.

The researchers discovered the residual effects of mental distraction while comparing the voice activated technology in ten 2015 vehicles and three types of smart phones. The analysis found that all systems studied increased mental distraction to potentially unsafe levels.

“Automakers often promote everything their connected cars can do, but this research paints a frightening picture of what drivers can’t do if they use the popular features” Parmenter says. “Hands free does not mean risk free. It’s that simple”.Phase-III-Social-Media-Graphic-1

Last month, CT by the Numbers reported that in-car electronics that allow drivers to listen to, read and send text messages while at the wheel may be skirting the spirit, if not the letter, of Connecticut law.  In Connecticut, Public Act 10-109, enacted in 2010, states that “no person shall operate a motor vehicle … while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call or while using a mobile electronic device while such vehicle is in motion. An operator of a motor vehicle who types, sends or reads a text message with a hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while such vehicle is in motion shall be in violation of this section.”

In the AAA study, researchers rated driver distraction on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being relatively safe, about equal to listening to the radio, and 5 being highly challenging in such a way as to overload the driver’s attention. The best performing system was the Chevy Equinox with a cognitive distraction rating of 2.4, while the worst performing system was the Mazda 6 with a cognitive distraction rating of 4.6.

The systems that performed best generally had fewer errors, required less time on task and were relatively easy to use.  The researchers also studied voice activated smartphone technology and found that Google Now outperformed Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana but, they say, all were dangerously distracting with ratings of 3.1, 3.4 and 3.8 respectively.

Dr. David Strayer and Dr. Joel Cooper of the University of Utah conducted the research. A total of 257 drivers ages 21-70 participated in the study of 2015 model-year vehicles, while 65 additional drivers ages 21-68 tested the three phone systems. Over the last two weeks, AAA has shared its findings with policymakers, safety advocates and manufacturers in hopes of improving the safety of future technology.


AAA chart

Safety of Fields with Crumbs From Rubber Tires Face Renewed Questions; CT Study Proclaims They’re OK

Despite a series of NBC News reports over the past year – the latest last week - on the growing debate about the safety of crumb rubber artificial turf, the federal agencies that regulate the product have remained largely silent of late, the network reported.  The Administrator leading the Environmental Protection Agency, former Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy, would not answer a direct on-camera question about whether the surface found on playgrounds and athletic fields across the country is safe for kids to play on, NBC News said in a story aired on the network’s flagship news program. Now members of Congress are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to weigh in on whether crumb rubber used in artificial turf fields in thousands of schools, parks and stadiums is safe for young athletes.  A bipartisan panel gave the agency until Nov. 6 to answer 10 questions about what tests have been done to determine whether turf made from recycled tires poses a health risk and what investigators have found, NBC News reported.letter

NBC News said that after a story about University of Washington women's soccer coach Amy Griffin aired on the network’s Nightly News last fall, many people contacted her, and the list she has developed of soccer players – especially goalies – afflicted with cancer has grown from 34 goalkeepers to at least 63. Griffin began keeping the list after she discovered that several goalies she knew had been diagnosed with the same cancer, the network reported. She and some of those athletes questioned whether crumb rubber could be exposing them to chemicals and carcinogens.Women's Soccer: SRJR at CCSF

NBC News reviewed dozens of studies, the network’s story pointed out. “Several studies that concluded crumb rubber does not present acute health risks also included the caveat that more research is needed,” according to NBC News.  “No study has examined the effects of regular exposure to shredded or crumb rubber on young children, over an extended period of time — something some experts believe should be done.”  Industry officials have stressed that the products are safe, and cite numerous studies supporting that view.

In Connecticut, like elsewhere around the nation, artificial turf fields have become a popular alternative to natural grass fields in many communities, according to the state Department of Public Health (DPH).  The department’s website points out that “the advantages of these fields include less maintenance costs, ability to withstand intense use and no need for pesticides.”

The state site notes, however, that “concerns have been raised about potential chemical exposures coming from the crumb rubber infill and the plastic grass blades commonly used in these fields.  The crumb rubber usually comes from recycled tires that contain man made compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).”Carcinogens-in-crumb-rubber1-771x450

To address public safety concerns, four Connecticut state agencies collaborated in 2010 to evaluate the potential exposures and risks from athletic use of artificial turf fields, the DPH website explains. A two year, comprehensive investigation of releases from five fields during active play was conducted by the Connecticut departments of Public Health, Energy and Environmental Protection, University of Connecticut Health Center, and The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The study was peer-reviewed by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

The overall conclusion of the report, according to the DPH website, is that “use of outdoor artificial turf fields does not represent a significant health risk.” The CT study did not find a large amount of vapor or particle released from the fields - findings that confirm prior reports from Europe and the US, according to the state public health agency.  “CT DPH put these exposures into a public health context by performing a risk assessment analysis. This analysis did not find elevated cancer risk,” the site emphasized.

An agency news release noted, however, that “higher contaminant levels at one indoor field indicate that ventilation of indoor fields should be considered.  Storm water run-off findings indicate that proper management of this run off is prudent to address possible environmental effects.”

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting indicated in an article earlier this year that David Brown, director of public health toxicology for the North Haven, Connecticut-based nonprofit Environment and Human Health, Inc., warned that as more is invested in artificial fields, it will be harder for state and local officials to change their position even if new information shows

“A natural experiment is being conducted in which thousands of children are being exposed on playing fields to rubber,’’ said Brown, a former chief of Environmental Epidemiology and Occupational Health at Connecticut's Department of Public Health. “Given the high stakes, it is prudent to take action to protect children from this known hazard rather than wait for definitive evidence of harm.”

Brown’s organization reports that “there are now 153 cancer cases reported, and of those, 124 are soccer players with 85 being soccer goalies. Many of them are student athletes.” Gaboury Benoit, Ph.D., Yale Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Engineering and lead investigator of a study conducted by Yale in 2007, said, "Not surprisingly, the shredded tires contain a veritable witches' brew of toxic substances. It seems irresponsible to market a hazardous waste as a consumer product."NECIR1-1170x776

Of the state’s study released in 2010, then-DPH Commission Dr. J. Robert Galvin said: “This study presents good news regarding the safety of outdoor artificial turf fields.  While the findings indoors were below the health risk targets, the elevated contaminant levels suggest a need to ventilate these fields so they can be brought to the level of safety outdoors.  What we’ve learned from this study in Connecticut will provide valuable guidance to municipalities, schools and others who operate or are considering installing artificial playing fields.”

In this month’s NBC News report, Paul Anastas, former head chemist for the EPA, is said to disagree that studies have proven crumb rubber to be safe.  "Tires were not designed to be playgrounds," Anastas, who is now Director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale, told NBC News. "They were designed to be tires."

Guns at the Airport? CT Ranks 43rd As Texas, Florida Confiscate Hundreds

Airport travelers caught carrying firearms were most prevalent in Texas, Florida and Georgia, with Connecticut ranking 43rd among the states, according to federal data analyzed by Bloomberg News. Texas saw the most confiscations in 2014, with 424 guns found in screenings, according to Transportation Security Administration data. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where 120 firearms were found in carry-on luggage, topped the list nationwide.

Ranked second was Florida, with 253 guns found during the year at the state’s airports, followed by Georgia with 119, California with 101, and North Carolina with 97.  Arizona and Tennessee tied for 6th with 94 guns discovered at each state’s airports, followed by Cotsa-airportlorado with 79 and Missouri with 75.

In Connecticut in 2014, there were four firearms found during 2014 according to the data.  Two of them were loaded.  There were also 4 firearms found at the state’s airports in 2013, Bloomberg reported.

With all 50 states now allowing people to carry concealed guns, with varying degrees of limitations, Bloomberg reported, more are being forgotten in clothing, holsters and handbags.  Firearm confiscations rose 22 percent from 2013.  Guns were discovered at airports in all 50 states in 2014, the data indicated.

The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 653 million passengers last year, about 14.8 million more than in 2013. The states and territories with the fewest were Rhode Island, South Dakota and the Virgin Islands.suitcase

Bloomberg ranked the 50 U.S. states and the U.S. Territories by the number of firearms discovered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in carry-on luggage at that state's airports. The numbers for each state represent a total of all of the airports in that state covered by the TSA. Firearms are defined by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as a destructive device, machine gun, silencer, short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun and any other weapon from which a shot can be discharged.

Fifth Time A Charm? Vulnerable User Bill Back Before Legislature

“Study after study reveals that more people would be willing to make more trips by bike or on foot if they felt they could do so without taking their lives in their hands.”  That comment at a legislative hearing by Kelly Kennedy, Executive Director of Bike Walk Connecticut, highlights the reason behind proposed legislation that would “help hold accountable careless drives who injure or kill non-motorized users of the road.”

Dubbed the “don’t hit me” bill, it is baambulance_ck for a fifth consecutive year at the State Capitol, endorsed by an array of 23 organizations.  In each of the past two years, it passed the Senate but was not considered by the House.  It recognizes that “vulnerable road users,” such as pedestrians, bicyclists, first responders, and highway workers need additional legal protections, and provides enhanced penalties for careless driving resulting in injury or death of a vulnerable road user.

The "Vulnerable User" bill:

  • Provides for a fine of up to $1,000 for injuring or killing a vulnerable user due to careless driving; and
  • Defines a vulnerable user as a pedestrian; cyclist; animal rider or driver; highway worker; farm tractor driver; user of a skateboard, roller or inline skates; user of a wheelchair or motorized chair; or blind person and his or her service animal.

The statistics behind the effort are clear:

  • Careless drivers injure hundreds of people every year in Connecticut--130 pedestrians and cyclists were killed between 2010 and 2012 and approximately 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists are injured every year, according to Bike Walk Connecticut.  Between 2006 and 2012, there were more than 10,000 deaths or injuries.
  • The League of American Bicyclists' top recommendation for Connecticut in its Bike Friendly State Report Card calls for Connecticut to "Adopt a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for a motorist that injures or kills a bicyclist or pedestrian."  (CT's Bike Friendly State ranking was #18 in 2013.)

Nora Duncan, State Director of the Connecticut AARP, testified in support of the bill, noting that “an older pedestrian is 61 percent more likely to die from a crash than a younger pedestrian.”  The bill, she said, “could improve pedestrian safety by deterring negligent behavior that puts vulnerable uses at risk of injury or death.”  In a survey, 47 percent of people over age 50 in Connecticut said they felt they could not safely cross main roads close to their home.

share the roadThe proposal was also supported by the State Department of Transportation, which suggested that the definition “be all encompassing to include all users such as persons on a legal non-motorized device” such as scooters and skateboards.  Transit for Connecticut, a statewide coalition of 33 business, social service, environmental, planning and civic organizations advocating the benefits of mass transit, supported a vulnerable user law indicating that “with emphasis on energy conversation and healthy lifestyles, the number of walkers and bicyclists is growing.  These residents, along with residents living in close proximity to bus stops and transit services need proper access if they want to use public transit.”

Kirsten Bechtel of the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, called for individuals who commit an infraction under the proposed law to “attend driver retraining and perform community service.”  In written testimony, she said that “vulnerable user laws in Oregon, Washington and Delaware include these requirements to ensure that drivers are held accountable and operate their vehicles safely in the future.”  Others, including the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, supported that idea.

Clinton resident Debbie Lundgren, in an email to the Transportation Committee, said succinctly, “pass the Vulnerable User Bill this year.  We have waited long enough!”

The  Committee is expected to consider SB 336 later this month.  If approved there, it would go on to the Senate for consideration.  A road well traveled.

Percentage of Drivers Age 85 and Older: Connecticut Leads USA

Connecticut has more than double the percentage of licensed drivers age 85 and older than any other state in the nation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In the Land of Steady Habits, 5.1 percent of all drivers – a total of 152,233 people – were age 85 or older, ranking Connecticut at the top of the state-by-state ranking.  The second place state, Maine, had 2.34 percent of its licensed drivers in that demographic.

The Insurance Institutolder driverse for Highway Safety reports that 29 states and the District of Columbia have additional license renewal procedures for older drivers, often age 65 or 70 and older.  In Connecticut, people 65 and older may choose a 2-year or 6-year renewal cycle. A personal appearance at renewal generally is required. Upon a showing of hardship, people 65 and older may renew by mail. There are no additional requirements for older drivers, according to the Insurance Institute.

Bloomberg ranked the U.S. states and the District of Columbia on the percentage of licensed drivers ages 85 and older, using data from the Federal Highway Administration.  (The data was for 2011, the most recent year available.)

The Age 85+ Rankings (percent of licensed drivers)elderly-driver

  1.  Connecticut        5.10%
  2. Maine                   2.34%
  3.  Alabama              2.23%
  4. Vermont              2.22%
  5.  Minnesota          2.11%
  6. New York            2.09%
  7. Nebraska             2.02%
  8.   South Dakota     1.99%
  9.  Florida                  1.98%
  10. Pennsylvania     1.98%

Rhode Island ranked #11, New Jersey was #15, Massachusetts was #17 and New Hampshire was #28 among states in our region.

Although they only account for about 9 percent of the population, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show senior drivers account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all pedestrian fatalities, ABC News reported last year.

The network cited a report by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that found the rate of deaths involving drivers 75 to 84 is about three per million miles driven – on par with teen drivers. Once they pass age 85, vehicular fatality rates jump to nearly four times that of teens.  The Insurance Institute reports that the increased fatal crash risk among older drivers is largely due to their increased susceptibility to injury, particularly chest injuries, and medical complications, rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.

An Institute study of a Florida vision test requirement for drivers 80 and older found that 80 percent of those eligible to renew their licenses attempted to do so, and 7 percent of them were denied renewal because they failed the vision test. Of those who did not seek renewal, about half said they thought they would fail the vision test.

Two-Thirds of Drivers Use Cell Phones While Driving Despite Dangers, Survey Says

It turns out that the problems is much greater than just teens.  Texting while driving – like texting – is cutting across the population, presenting dangers that are well-documented and increasingly ignored.  And it’s not only texting – it is the use of phones while driving as well that is causing concerns among safety experts.

New research from the AAA FoundOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAation for Traffic Safety indicates that high school-aged teens report using their phones or texting while driving substantially less often than adults do.  The AAA survey found that adult drivers ages 25-39 were the most likely to admit engaging in these risky behaviors behind the wheel.

Though the practice is hazardous at any age, two out of three drivers reported using a cell phone while driving within the past month. Forty-three percent of adults ages 25-39 reported doing so fairly often or regularly while driving, compared to only 20 percent of teens.  Motorists age 60 and up were the least likely to report using a phone.

“Using your phone while driving may seem safe, but it roughly quadruples your risk of being in a crash according to previous research,” said Stephen Rourke, manager of driving school administration for AAA. “None of us is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. The best advice is to hang up and drive.”AAA age

More than one-in-four motorists reported sending a text or email while driving within the past month. Adults ages 25-39 reported texting and driving most frequently, while those age 60 and up reported doing it the least.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every ten fatal crashes involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year, although experts agree the numbers are likely underestimated.

Previous research shows that hands-free cell phones offer no significant safety benefits over handheld phones – hands-free is not risk-free.  Earlier this year, Connecticut by the Numbers reported on a proposal in Connecticut to ban the useAAA text chart of electronic devices in vehicles.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety collected the data as part of the 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index. The data are from a sample of 2,325 licensed drivers, ages 16 and older, who reported driving in the past 30 days.