Driving With Kids

Distracted Driving Awareness

Distracted driving is an ongoing issue that continues to endanger thousands of drivers each year.  Since April is distracted driving awareness month, we wanted to get some of the facts about this dangerous habit and help spread awareness.

So what is distracted driving exactly?  Basically it is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off of the wheel, or mind off of driving.  It can be an action as simple as changing the radio or reaching for something in the seat next to you.  The best example would be talking on the phone or texting while driving.  Texting is in fact one of the worst distractions facing drivers.  It takes your mind and eyes off the road as well as your hands off of the wheel.

Even if it seems like reading or sending a text is not a big deal, it takes your attention away from driving and increases the odds of an accident.  Hands-free cell phone use isn’t much safer, research has shown that even cognitive distractions hinder a driver’s ability to pick up on audio and visual cues that could potentially prevent an accident.

You may think that distracted driving is not as dangerous as it is made out to be, but the statistics related to it have proven otherwise.  Did you know that in 2010 over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the youngest and most inexperienced drivers are at risk, about 16% of distracted driving accidents involve drivers under the age of 20.

Did you also know that at any point during daylight hours, there are about 800,000 vehicles on the road being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.  That’s a lot of distraction that not only endangers the driver, but everyone else on the road as well.

Why isn’t distracted driving illegal in all states you may ask?  It’s because State law has jurisdiction over passenger car driving.   More and more states are passing tougher laws when it comes to distracted driving, and Massachusetts is one of them.  All drivers are banned from texting and junior operators are banned from any cell phone use whatsoever.  Bus drivers are also banned from any cell phone use.

What are some tips for safe driving?  The first step is being aware of what it is and the damage it can cause.  Next, be sure to avoid any and all cell phone use while driving.  If you listen to music in the car,  choose a CD or and iPod playlist that doesn’t have commercials so you don’t have to change the channel or skip songs.   You can also take the Pledge to drive phone-free today and encourage family and friends to do the same.  Distracted driving is entirely preventable and the accidents it causes are avoidable.  Protect yourself and others on the road by taking all precautions to avoid distractions on the road.

Want to keep your car safe from distracted drivers on the road? MassDrive offers more information on car insurance.

All information and statistics were obtained from the Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving.

Photo By: OregonDOT

Texting While Driving in Massachusetts: Know The Laws

Driving while on a cell phone has undoubtedly led to accidents on the road which could have been prevented.  Massachusetts lawmakers continue to push for stricter regulations against cell phone use while driving.  For those of you that aren’t exactly sure what the current laws are, we’ve done some research so that you can be sure you are in compliance next time you go out for a drive.

Currently, the only law that restricts talking on a cell phone while driving applies to drivers under the age of 18 with a learner’s permit or provisional license.  Violators will have their license or learner’s permit suspended.  Junior Operator’s Licenses or Learner’s Permits will be suspended for 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense, and 1 year for a third or subsequent violation.

While licensed drivers over the age of 18 are allowed to talk on the phone while driving, all drivers are banned from texting or other Internet activity when behind the wheel.  If found texting while driving, drivers will be fined $100 for their first offense, then $250, and then $500 for additional infractions.

This law may be frustrating for some drivers but there is good reason for it.  You may think that sending a quick text is no big deal but  texting drivers are 23 times more likely to get involved in a crash.  Sadly, statistics  like this have not been enough to keep drivers from texting behind the wheel which is why bans like this are becoming more common than ever across the country.

In addition to these bans,  school bus operators and any public transit drivers are prohibited from any cell phone use whatsoever while driving, which is enforced with a $500 fine. http://handsfreeinfo.com/massachusetts-cell-phone-laws-legislation

As we said there is currently no ban on cell phone use (other than texting) on licensed drivers over the age of 18, however, a bill has recently been introduced in Massachusetts that would only allow for hands-free cell phone use.  This would mean that drivers would need to have a docking station for their phone that would allow them to utilize the speaker phone feature, use headphones, or a Bluetooth to allow for driving with both hands on the wheel.  This bill is yet to be passed.

While many drivers see these laws as a nuisance, their purpose is to protect everyone on the road from the dangers of distracted driving.

Teenage Driving: Make Sure They Are Fully Prepared Before They Hit the Road!

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Teenage driving can be a frightening thought, especially in Massachusetts where we have a certain reputation with the rest of the country when it comes to our driving skills. However, a surprising statistic according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association showed that although deaths among 16 and 17 year old drivers were up 11% in the first half of 2011 when compared to the same time in 2010, Massachusetts is one of few states that saw no increase in deaths. http://www.wggb.com/2012/02/16/teen-driving-in-massachusetts/

Perhaps a related factor could be that more students in Massachusetts earned a Driver’s Education Certificate in 2011 than 2010, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Not only do these courses give young drivers the experience they need on the road to feel comfortable behind the wheel of the car, they also teach them basic driving facts such as at what speed the car will start to hydroplane, how far to stay behind a school bus, and many basic rules and regulations of the road. They show videos that illustrate the results of drunk driving, speeding, and reckless driving while also teaching students the legal and physical consequences of their actions behind the wheel. Teenagers under the age of 18 in Massachusetts are required to complete the course which involves 30 hours of classroom sessions, 12 hours of driving lessons and 6 hours of observations if they want their license.

This training gives teenagers the experience they need to build their confidence and knowledge before they start driving. Drivers under the age of 18 also have many more restrictions when it comes to operating a vehicle which can be found online at  the Massachusetts RMV http://www.mass.gov/rmv/jol/jol_penalties_chart.htm.  For even more information related to driving with teens check out our blog http://blog.massdrive.com/category/driving-with-kids/. When it comes to your teenager you can never be too careful, make sure they are fully prepared and have all of the resources they need before they start driving!

To be safe, make sure you have adequate auto insurance for teenagers. Call a MassDrive agent today to discuss the particulars of car insurance coverage for teenage drivers.

Preparing Your Kids for the Road

Preparing Your Kids for the Road

Preparing Your Kids (and Yourself) to Drive

Passing a drivers test and receiving their very first licnese is a teenager’s first step to independence and one move closer to adulthood. You can provide your child with driving advice and safety tips to better prepare them behind the wheel. No matter the advice you give, your child’s first time behind the wheel is going to be an exhilarating, and maybe scary experience. Tackling important information early on can help your new driver to make the best decisions during their first days, weeks, and months on the road.

Don’t Miss Out On Driver’s Training

As all younger drivers are require to complete driver’s training, before taking their exam they will need to study the laws of the road. You can be a part of this by helping them to study, quizzing them on the information for the exam, and maybe even pick up a little refresher yourself! With this preparation your child will be more confident and better prepared for the exam and the road.

Talk Finances

Whether or not your teenager will be helping to pay for their own car, auto insurance, or gas it’s important that they understand the financial responsibility that comes with a driver’s licnese. Show them a copy of your insurance policy, talk with them about the costs that come with a driver’s licnese and emphasize the responsibility they are about to receive. Discussing the effects of a speeding ticket on insurance rates and the dangers of irresponsible driving is an important subject to touch on as well. These conversations will better prepare your child to be financially responsible with their vehicle and driving habits today and in the future.

Talk Safety

Further than discussing the financial consequences of a speeding ticket or an accident, you’ll want to discuss the importance of safety behind the wheel. Parents should discuss the incredible responsibility the child has acquired not only for themselves, but for the passengers of their own vehicle and others on the road. Topics to discuss here include everything from wearing a seatbelt and ensuring the headlights are used during evening hours to defensive driving techniques. Here you’ll want to be firm, but not overly controlling – you will want your child to take you seriously and feel respected.

Keep the Driving Subject Open

Once they receive their driver’s licnese, the training is not over. You will want to consistently review driving techniques and ask about their driving experiences. Although you will not want to discuss this every time you talk with your child, depending on the length of time they’ve been driving you’ll want to keep on top of these important topics.

Safe Driving!

Photo by Caitlinator

Stricter Regulations Proposed for Child Transporation

Companies transporting children to and from childcare facilities throughout Massachusetts may soon be facing stricter regulations. During a meeting yesterday suggestions have come to include: the additon of an adult personal to monitor children on vans and buses, mechanisms reminding drivers to check for children left-behind, and a new system for double checking for children at the end of routes.

State officials are working dillegently to develop these new procedures in response to last month’s fatality. For the full story of 17-month Gabriel Pierre please click here. The Department of Early Education and Care promises to have recommendations ready by their set October 11th deadline. Keep your eye on the news for proposals in the next couple weeks.

Contact information for the Department of Early Education and Care can be found on theirwebsite.

Schedule Your Drivers Exam ONLINE!

The younger tech-savvy generations may fall in love with the newest addition to the Massachusetts RMV site: on-line driver’s exam scheduling. Until last week teenagers were only able schedule a driver’s exam by calling the RMV hot line. These calls annually number approximately 260,000 and greatly slowed the routing of other call-center customers.

Hopeful teen drivers can pay the $20 exam fee while registering and, if they’re feeling confident, the $50 licensing fee eliminating another trip to a Registry branch once they’ve passed the exam. If paid for through the website the teenager’s licnese will be sent through the mail with the learners permit photo. During a two week test period almost 900 permit holders successfully scheduled their driving examinations!

Drivers license exams were previously administered by State Police troopers and as of two years ago are now handled by Registry examiners. About 2,500 road tests are given a week through the 29 Massachusetts examination locations. Serving more than 4.6 million drivers the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will be able to better service drivers as those scheduling examinations begin to navigate to the website rather than phone hot line.

To schedule a driver’s examination online visit the Massachusetts Department of Transportation site here.

Hampshire Regional High Learns About Physics & Auto Accidents

Massachusetts State Police collaborated with the Northwester District Attorney’s Office and several local police departments this past May to host a training exercise at the Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. Using physics and mechanics officers taught teenagers about driving accidents and the consequences of driver’s actions.

Officers used a new teaching aid called the “Crash – The Science of Collisions” using what the teenagers have and will be learning in their physics classes. While teaching teenage drivers about the physics behind a crash, officers taught students about the cause and effect of driver’s actions. Troopers from the State Police Collision Analysis Reconstruction Section replicated characteristics of an accident in the Hampshire Regional High parking lot. From the staged crash statistics were given for students to analyze and evaluate.

The motivation behind this exercise was to raise awareness levels to decrease the number of future crashed by teen drivers. The hope is with this training & realization of the physics and mechanics behind a crash, students will be more safe and aware drivers.

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security other participants included: Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel and Assistant District Attorney Curtis Frick; Westhampton Police Chief David White and Sergeant Floyd Fisher; Williamsburg Police Acting Chief Denise Wickland; Goshen Police Chief Jeffrey Hewes; Chesterfield Police Corporal Aimee Wallace; and Southampton Police Officer Scott Gove.

What You Need to Know About Teen Drivers & Insurance

When a teenager brings home their driving learner’s permit there are mixed feelings felt throughout the household. Teenagers ecstatic, their freedom and independence from mom and dad has become a reality. Parents on the other hand need to think about their child – and possibly vehicle’s – safety, insurance, a new/ used or shared vehicle, and new rules. Before a teenager is licensed it’s important to know about insurance needs and teenage driving laws. Read the following bullets for a good overview of what you need to know concerning teen drivers & insurance:

  • Be prepared to insure your teenager: Massachusetts requires, by law, that once your teenager earns their licnese and is living in the same household you must add them to your policy. This is something you should talk to your auto insurance agent about when your teenager earns their learner’s permit.
  • For the lucky ones – choosing a vehicle: Know when purchasing a vehicle for your teen you need to focus on not only how much it will cost to insure, but it’s safety as well. An article by the Milford Daily News pointed out that SUVs have a higher roll over rate as they have a higher center of gravity. The article explained that the size of an SUV may give teenagers a false sense of security although they are more prone to roll overs. Smaller vehicles, such as a two door coupe, carry the risk of more serious injuries and fatalities. Researching crash test results, safety reviews, and road tests will help you determine what vehicle is right for your teenager.
  • Know your premium will go up: Auto insurance premiums depend on a number of factors including: year, make and model of the insured vehicle, number of years licensed, zip code/ location, etcetera. Be prepared to pay an extra premium as teenage drivers are a higher risk to insure and can be costly when adding to a policy.
  • Be aware of Massachusetts learner’s permit laws: If your teenager is younger than 18 years they will be driving with a Junior Permit. For the first six months of driving your teenager may not drive friends unless a licensed driver of 21 years or more is in the front passenger seat. Until age 18 your teenager is restricted from driving between 12:30 and 5a.m. unless with a guardian. On the first offense violating this curfew a teenager will face a $100 fine and 60- day license suspension. Speeding is another great concern for teen drivers thus Massachusetts has imposed strict laws with serious consequences if caught speeding on a junior licnese. When a teenager receives his or her first speeding ticket they will face: a 90 day licnese suspension, $50 licnese reinstatement fee, required to take a Driver Attitudinal Retraining Course and State Courts Against Road Rage course (costing approximately $75 each), and must pass the learner’s permit exam and road exam.
  • Advanced driving courses = benefits: Advanced driving courses, although not required to gain or maintain a licnese, these courses give young drivers better knowledge of what to be aware of while driving. Additionally, various auto insurance carriers will give discounts to those who have completed an advanced driving course.

For more information and tips for safe teen driving please visit the National Safety Council: Teen Driving Website.

Young Drivers Benefit Greatly from Target Safety Course!

Safety is number one in a parents mind when it comes to their child, and learning to drive can be risky business. Peace of mind however may be just around the corner thanks to a recent experiment completed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The new study’s found young drivers can be trained to realize and avoid dangerous situations while driving and reduce their risk of accidents.

Researchers at the University developed and evaluated a computer based training program training young drivers how to better anticipate potential hazards on the road. Twenty-four drivers ages eighteen to twenty-one were surveyed in the study. Before any on-road driving twelve of the drivers took part in a Risk Awareness and Perception Training Program developed at the University of Massachusetts. The simulation program contains nine driving scenarios with a potential risk of an accident with another vehicle or pedestrian. The other twelve drivers did not participate in the training.

After the training was complete, researchers followed the participants eye movements driving a total of 16 miles on local roads. Prior to the drive the researchers found parts of the drive that contained hazards similar and dissimilar to those in the simulation. The driving experiment found the drivers who participated in the driving simulation and training were significantly more likely to recognize areas of the roads with potential risks. Those with training recorded eye movements recognizing a  64.4% likelihood to view at areas of the roads with potential hazards as only 37.4% without the training readily viewed these areas of the road.

According to an article by EHS Today the researchers include: Anuj K. Pradhan, Ph.D., and Donald L. Fisher, Ph.D., of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; Alexander Pollatsek, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology; and Michael Knodler, Ph.D., of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Should America Have a National Licensing Age?

As of now a total of 42 states allow teenagers under 16 years to earn a learners permit. Of these states, seven offer permits to fourteen-year-olds. Laws differing by state, allowing young drivers certain privileges and restrictions such as a curfew, number of passengers allowed or licensing age. Representatives Tim Bishop, Michael Castle, and Chris Van Hollen, Jr. began the push for a national standardization of driving permits and licenses April of 2009. The legislative act, dubbed the STAND UP Act, would establish minimum federal requirements for state laws and set a 3 year time frame from enactment for states to conform to the new federal standards.

The www.saferoads4teens.org, website dedicated to this piece of legislation, gives an overview of the STANDUP ACT as follows:

  • States must meet the following requirements under the STANDUP Act:
  • Three stages of licensing – learner’s permit, intermediate stage, and full licensure – should be used
  • Age 16 should be the earliest age for entry into the learner’s permit process
  • Nighttime driving while unsupervised should be restricted during the learner’s permit and intermediate stages, until full licensure at age 18
  • Driving while using communication devices (cell phone calls, texting) should be prohibited at least until full licensure at age 18
  • Unrestricted, full licensure should occur no earlier than age 18
  • Passengers should be restricted – no more than one non-familial passenger under age 21 unless a licensed driver over age 21 is in the vehicle – until full licensure at age 18
  • Any other requirement adopted by the Secretary of Transportation, such as a minimum duration of 6 months and a minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving for a learner’s permit, may be included
  • Compliance with the requirements within the first three years after enactment will make states eligible for incentive grants
  • Three years are provided for states to meet the requirements, after which sanctions are imposed to encourage states to meet the requirements

This is a piece of legislation to keep an eye on, although it is still in the early stages it had the potential to affect drivers across the nation. For further information and updates on the Act’s happenings please visit the safe 4 roads legislative update page.

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