Preventing Underage Drinking and Driving
November 22, 2010
Underage drinking should and does pose concern for parents. Combine drinking with teens who are receiving their learner’s permits or full operators license and you have a recipe for disaster.
For parents and guardians, it will be up to them to make sure that they set the parameters and guidelines to keep their teens safe at all times. But doing so without imposing too much control and giving away too much freedom is essential. Otherwise, teens may make the wrong choices when faced with decisions, they may soon regret.
So what can be done? What can be done to help a teen from getting into preventable bad situations?
There are a few steps parents can take, including:
Get to know the parents of the teen’s friends – Acquaint yourself with the parents of your teen’s friends. Make sure you are on the same wavelength when it comes to what your expectations and parameters are for your teen. Also, treating your teen’s friends with respect or as if they are family will make them think twice before trying something irresponsible. If another parent isn’t too concerned about underage drinking, put out facts. Never argue, instead, share your concerns and the reason you have them, along with the facts and statistics on underage drinking and how it affects the teenage brain. Once they understand the science and statistics, hopefully they will change their minds.
Hide/Lock up the alcohol – Remember, out of sight, out of mind. Don’t make it easy for them to find alcohol and be irresponsible. Ask the parents of your teen’s friends to do the same. Homeowners and other adults can be held liable for what occurs in their home whether they were present or not. Be prudent and not an enabler for reckless teen behavior.
Be the example for them to follow – Be consistent in your message. Never break the rules you make or take part in illegal, unhealthy or dangerous substances or activities. Your actions are the most powerful message to your teen of what is acceptable in your family.
Limit teen driving times and vehicle access – Create and follow a parent-teen contract. Give them limits as to when they can drive a vehicle and how often they can use it. Check in often with your teen. Be sure you know how to reach them. Know where they’re going and ask whether anyone will have alcohol and if adults will be present.
Support the law – Most of the underage drinking laws have made bars and liquor establishments responsible for whatever damages an underage customer might do or incur. They are also likely to have their licenses for selling revoked, if proven to be selling to minors or someone with fake ids. Law enforcement is also cracking down on the makers of fake ids, and violators are given harsh penalties if proven guilty.
Install an anti-distracted driving mobile application – Most of these apps are designed to combat distracted driving, but they can also be used to set safe driving zones, and can alert you if a teen is going over a certain pre-approved point, like, say, a bar or known trouble area. It could also help prevent your teen from getting into a distracted driving crash.
Talk to your teen – Have a straight-up conversation about the effects of drinking and the dangers of drinking and driving. Make sure they understand the penalties, how it reflects on their legal and driving records and how that might affect them in the future. Tell them of your family’s history of alcohol and drug use, since there is a genetic predisposition towards risk of addiction. Be alert and ready to talk with your teen, when they come in at night. Ask them about how their evening went and be prepared to tackle what they share with you. Having an open conversation and understanding with teens can often do wonders for both the teen’s safety and their relationship with their parents.
Recognize and praise them when they have been responsible and demonstrated good judgment. Together with other concerned parents, many crashes that happen during the teenage years can be prevented. Be concerned and vigilant, but not overprotective. Teen drivers may seem like they are maturing to adulthood, but they are not quite there. Balancing expectations with responsibility and implementing precautions, will help to avoid the dangers of underage drinking and drinking and driving.
Learn more about Technology to Prevent Drunk Driving at the National Safety Commission.
Teen Driver Safety Devices
November 9, 2010
No matter what rules or boundaries a parent may set for their teen driver, once that teen is out of sight, the parent has to rely on trust and faith that the teen will obey those rules. However teens are teens and a multitude of outside influences can act on them to prevent their adherence to the rules. Fortunately, there are new technologies and driver safety devices available that can allow a parent to monitor their teen’s driving habits and whereabouts at all times.
Here are a few of the existing technologies that help give parents peace of mind:
Sprint’s Family Locator / Verizon’s Chaperone – http://sfl.sprintpcs.com/finder-sprint-family/welcome.htm / http://products.verizonwireless.com/index.aspx?id=fnd_chaperone, additional charges to monthly plan
Teens always have their cell phone with them and, if the teen is using a Sprint or Verizon phone, there are extra services available that allow a parent to track their teen’s location via a phone or computer. This allows a parent to monitor whether or not the teen is where he or she said they would be.
The Determinator Ignition Interlock Device – http://www.stopdwi.com/, $1,595 + shipping and installation fees
This breathalyzer interlock system will prevent the car from starting if the teen’s Blood Alcohol Level is above the legal limit. While expensive, this device guarantees that a teen can never drive drunk and that peace of mind may be well worth the investment..
DriveCam: Teen Safe Driver Program package – http://www.drivecam.com/, $899 plus monthly fees/FREE if insurance is covered by American Family’s auto insurance
This in-car camera system records “risky driving behavior”and sends them to DriveCam for third-party assessment of a teen driver’s skills. The reports are then sent to parents, who can discuss the driving behavior with their teen. Cars insured with American Family’s auto insurance may sign up for the Teen Safe Driver Program, which offers the device/service for free. American Family also claims that footage taken from a car will not be used as evidence and belongs to the purchaser.
CarChip Pro – http://www.carchip.com/Products/8226.asp, $119
CarChipPro is essentially a black box which, once the information is downloaded, provides parents with a history of the teen’s driving. The system may also be set to turn into an alarm if certain speeds are reached or if the driver is braking too hard. Like DriveCam, it is a tool to help discuss a teen’s driving habits by allowing parents to show them the facts, and how to correct their driving behavior.
MyKey – http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=29172, only available for Ford models manufactured in 2010
First seen on the 2010 Ford Focus, the MyKey system is designed to help parents set certain limitations on their Ford vehicles for when their teens are driving. With the configurable key, this system is designed for parents who share their cars with teen drivers.
The key features are:
- Speed Control, limiting the top speed of the Ford vehicle to 80 mph.
- Volume control, which allows parents to set a maximum volume level for the car’s radio.
- Beltminder, an alarm system that mutes the radio and plays a chime every 6 seconds, every minute or every 5 minutes when the seatbelt is unbuckled.
- Fuel reminder: alerts the teen that they need to refuel, when fuel is low.
No matter how good these technologies are, they still aren’t as effective as firm rules and boundaries set up by parents who provide a good driving role model for their child. Studies have shown that teens, whose parents have set clear boundaries and follow up with enforcement, have a safer driving record than those teens whose parents don’t set firm rules or who provide a poor role model for safe driving. Parents who want to start such a dialogue with their teens should consider a parent-teen contract before their child begins to drive on their own.
New Florida Driver’s License/ID Card Requirements for 2011
October 18, 2010
Florida enacted a new law on January 1, 2010, in order to comply with the federal Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005. Florida’s new law requires more positive proof of identification for anyone trying to get a license or a Florida ID card.
Lack of awareness of this law has resulted in a lot of customers at the DDL office who were turned away for lack of proper proof of identification. If you are planning to visit the DDL anytime soon, you will need to carry the required items of documentation with you if you need to:
- Apply for a new license or ID card
- Renew a license or ID card
- Change your name
- Change your address
- Replace a lost or stolen license
(If there are no changes, simple renewals can still be done online at: http://www.flhsmv.gov/html/online.html )
Primary Identification (proof of citizenship or legal presence). You need to provide ONE original or certified copy of any of the following:
- Certified United States birth certificate
- Valid United States Passport or Passport Card
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- Certificate of Naturalization, Form N-550 or Form N-570
- Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-560 or Form N-561
If a birth certificate is your chosen form of primary identification, then it must come from a government agency; hospital birth certificates are not accepted.
When necessary, marriage certificates, court orders, or divorce decrees must be provided to tie the name on the primary identification to the name the customer would like to place on the driver license or identification card.
Those born in Puerto Rico must present an new, updated birth certificate after September 30, 2010.
2. Proof of Social Security Number. Provide ONE original or certified copy of any of the following that proves your social security number tied to your full name.
- Social Security Card (must be an original and must be under name being applied for)
- W-2 Form
- Pay check/stub
- Any 1099 (not handwritten)
If an applicant currently does not have a social security number, one must bring a letter from the Social Security Administration indicating that the applicant was not issued one. In addition, secondary identification is required, which could be any of the following:
- A driver license from the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories or one from the 50 states
- School record starting date of birth, with the registrar’s signature
- Transcript of the birth record
- Baptism certificate, with the date of birth and place of baptism
- Family Bible record
- An insurance policy on the applicant’s name, which has been in place for at least 2 years
- United States military or military dependent identification card
- An identification card from the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories or one from the 50 states
- Florida license record or identification card record
- Selective Service Registration
- Florida Vehicle Registration Certificate (HSMV 83399, owner’s copy) or out-of-state registration certificate with name and date of birth
- Receipt copy of last Florida driver license issuance
- Immigration form I-571
- Federal form DD-214
- Marriage certificates
- Court order, which includes applicant’s legal name
- A Florida voter registration card, which was issued at least 3 months previously
- Parent consent form of minor, signed by the parent or legal guardian
- Government issued out-of-country passport, driver license or identification card
- Concealed weapons permit
Making the social security number a requirement reinforces the idea that social security is indeed, for social security.
3. Two Proofs of Residential Address. Bring TWO different documents that confirm the applicant’s residential address. It could by any TWO of the following:
- Deed, mortgage, rental/lease statement
- Florida Voter Registration Card
- Florida Vehicle Registration or Title
- Florida Boat Registration or Title
- TWO Proofs of residential address from a parent/legal guardian, along with a statement from a parent/legal guardian with whom the applicant resides with
- A utility hook up or work order dated within 60 days of application
- Automobile Payment Booklet
- Selective Service Card
- Medical/Health card with address
- Current homeowner’s insurance policy/bill
- Current automobile insurance policy/bill
- Transcript forms from current school year
- Unexpired professional license issued by government agency in the U.S.
- W-2 form or 1099 form
- Form DS2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status
- A letter from a homeless shelter/transitional service provider/half-way house verifying that they receive mail for applicant
- Certificate of Address Form
- Utility bills
- Mail from financial institutions
- Mail from federal State, County or City government agencies
If an applicant’s current driver’s license has a P.O. Box under address, records must be updated that verify an applicant’s physical address. The address will be placed when the applicant next renews his/her license.
For more information, visit: http://www.gathergoget.com/
What is being done to Stop Distracted Driving?
October 12, 2010
Each day there is more research conducted, articles written and information available about the dangers of distracted driving. This increase in awareness is highlighting the growing problem all drivers face on the roadways. Distracted driving has been estimated to cause over 11,500 deaths in the last two years. But what has been done to eliminate the problem? What initiatives are organizations and individuals doing to combat distracted driving?
When you Google “distracted driving groups” you will find varied results of individuals banding together to increase awareness on distracted driving, on a local or country-wide basis. The organizations can be as simple as asking people to pledge against distracted driving, like Oprah’s No Phone Zone, or wearing thumb socks to show a driver’s support for not texting while driving. These groups establish their presence online, in various social networking services, making it easier to distribute the message.
With the nationwide awareness on the shocking statistics of texting while driving, the Federal, state and local governments and municipalities have proposed and enacted laws to prohibit cell phone usage while on the road. So far, more than 30 states have a law that places a ban on texting while behind the wheel, urging drivers to think twice before they pull out their phones. The type of penalties and amount of fines range from location to location. Currently, the options are being weighed on how to effectively further enforce texting ban laws.
How to stop phone use while on the road? Simple. Install a phone/text-blocker application. These applications interface the cell phone to the vehicle’s Global Positioning System (GPS) to see if the car is in motion. If so, the application disables the cell phone’s call and/or texting features. With crash-risk increasing four times/talking on the phone and 23 times/texting, it can help discipline the driver into not relying on their phones so much while on the road, until they break the habit.
Several local/teen driving advocacy groups have set up mock crashes to remind teen drivers (the group most likely to engage in texting while driving) what could potentially happen if they text and drive at the same time. In most places, the mock crashes are set up at the entrance of the school depicting the wrecked cars, actors as teen drivers, playing dead with phone in-hand. It is a shocking, yet accurate statement that reminds teen drivers of the potential consequences.
There are also trial course runs, usually hosted by a state’s Division of Motor Vehicles along with several advocates against distracted driving. They allow drivers to experience firsthand what could happen should they attempt to text while driving. Set in an enclosed space, with only traffic cones as obstacles and are operated at low speeds. These courses are designed to show drivers that they are unable to handle both tasks, by challenging them to maneuver their vehicle safety and skillfully while driving distracted.
Advertising and Videos
Various organizations release ads that are either funny or serious in order to make their point. Some organizations do their advertisements a step above by involving the people themselves. They create contests asking drivers if they have what it takes to get the message across, in a video format. The advantages of these types of contests include maintaining a limited budget, creating enthusiasm, spurring creativity and raising safety awareness in teen drivers.
People are motivated to change their behavior in different ways. One or all of these approaches can be incorporated to stop distracted driving. Take a proactive approach to know the dangers and help stop distracted driving.
Five Tips After Teens Get Their Driver’s License
October 8, 2010
Once a teen gets their driver’s license, they will want to apply their new skill all the time. Some teens even volunteer to be the family driver and errand runner! (Depending on what age, and what kind of license they have.) But just because they have their license, the process of learning to drive isn’t over. Driver’s Education is continuing education, and there are still several things to tackle.
Here are a few tips for teens after they get their license:
- Encourage your parents to sign a parent-teen driving contract. If you don’t have one set up already, then show the initiative. Be the teen who demonstrates to their parents or guardian that they are willing to agree to some terms if they are going to help shoulder the responsibility of driving. It will save you both from any misunderstandings, over-reactions, and hard feelings, on the interpretations, expectations and consequences of your driving privilege.
- Practice, practice, practice. Though the teen may have his/her license, it’s easy for them and their parents to get complacent. While they may be skilled on how to drive, mastering and fine-tuning their skills only comes with experience. There’s still always much to master when it comes to driving, and asking a parent for help more not only increases that teen’s driving ability and safety, but also makes him/her bond closer with their parent. The evolution from learning to drive to becoming a safe and defensive driver is a long term progression. Parents need to stay engaged through out the process.
- Clear the dashboard. Like life, teens should remove unnecessary distractions when it comes to driving. Have disc-changers ready and music set before starting the vehicle. Keep cell phones in the glove compartment away from the driver’s reach. Also important, don’t be a chauffeur for friends. Having other teens in the car is a major form of distraction while driving, and research shows it increases the risk of a crash per passenger, exponentially.
- Clear your head someplace else. Driving isn’t a stress-reliever. When a teen has a problem, he/she shouldn’t use driving to clear his head. When a preoccupied mind does something that requires full attention, like driving, there is more likely to be mistakes. Having a talk with a friend, when you are not doing something else (like driving) is one of the best ways to cool one’s head. Driving when you are upset, angry or even extremely happy can be dangerous.
- Check the labels. Before taking any form of medication, even over-the-counter drugs, remember to check the labels. Some drugs have side-effects when taken, which may include dizziness or drowsiness. Either of which is never good for driving. Some medicines may give off false driving-under-the-influence signals. Make sure you are rested and in good health. Your physical health and well being can affect awareness, judgment and reaction time each important for safe driving.
Having your driver’s license does not mean you are good to go. In order to be a safe driver, there is still continuing education needed and defensive driving techniques to learn. Take advantage of this time to continue to be engaged in driver education as you gradually increase the opportunities and responsibilities driving brings.