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Texas Vanity License Plates: Everything You Need to Know

Everything You Need to Know about Vanity Plates in Texas

Getting a vanity license plate in Texas is generally a straightforward process. What you’ll specifically need to do depends entirely on the type of plate customization you’re looking for. Through the Texas DMV website and the Texas site at MyPlates.com, you can research specific plates and learn more about your options.

In this article, we’ll review some of the basics you’ll need to know as you choose and register Texas vanity license plates.

Types of Texas Vanity License Plates

Texas offers an almost endless number of different options to customize your license plate. You can choose from specialized charity plates, occupation and job-related plates, military plates recognizing different branches of service in the armed forces, college and university plates, athletic team plates, theme plates, special design plates, and much more. Customizing the background and text is another option. With so many choices available, you’re likely to find a style available that reflects your personality, interests and needs.

Beyond vanity plates, some Texas personalized plates actually fulfill important functions. For instance, you can request a disability permit plate if you have proof of a permanent disability. Texas vanity plates recognizing Purple Heart recipients, plates for vehicles transporting cotton, and a variety of other types of functional plates are available. These choices require other documentation that you’ll need to submit to state authorities first (usually, this is your local county tax assessor-collector’s office).

Fees

How much you’ll pay depends entirely on the type of Texas vanity license plates you’re interested in, level of personalization, and the message you choose. Fees include only the personalization (vehicle registration fees are not included in the price), and you’ll pay more to keep your choice for a longer period of time. Your selection could be free or it could cost you a hefty sum depending on what you’re looking for.

For instance, disability plates without added customization are free, while while plates sold at auction on MyPlates.com sometimes cost thousands of dollars. (In fact, the most expensive plate to date sold for $115,000 in 2013. It was a Texas A&M custom vanity plate with the letters “12THMAN.”) Typical fees are $30 for a charity plate, $50 for a personalized background only, $150 for one year use of a six-letter custom text and $195 for seven letters. To keep your plate longer or customize it further, expect to pay more.

‘Where Does My Money Go?’

Charity plates donate a portion of the proceeds you pay. Most other Texas vanity license plates have fees that go toward the Texas general revenue fund, so when you pay for a customized plate or purchase rights to a plate at auction, you’re paying directly toward services provided by the state to Texans as a whole.

Application Process

Most vanity plates will probably require a visit to MyPlates.com, but a moderate selection is also available through the Texas DMV website. As you review your choices, note any special application requirements that apply to that type of plate. Keep in mind, too, that the DMV reserves the right to reject any plate you apply for.

Speaking of rejection, Texas has seen her fair share of funny and inappropriate vanity plate applications. In the summer of 2013, the plate “HUMPIN” was turned down by the state. Others, like “FATKID,” “LSUSUX,” “O HELL,” and “BUMBUM” also made an appearance. While these vanity plates never actually made it onto vehicles, they must’ve made for an interesting day at the office when state employees had to respond with a “NO” to each of these applicants.

Designs

Excluding something inappropriate or text that’s already taken, you have tons of different designs and combinations to choose from. Most of these options can be customized online. MyPlates.com designs can also be personalized with help from customer service, if you’d like.

Character Requirements

To customize the text on a plate, you’ll be asked to see first if a specific combination of text is available. Six-letter and seven-letter plates are allowed. Six-letter plates must have one letter at least (the rest can be numbers). Seven-letter plates can use either letters or numbers.

Ready to Apply?

If you’re ready to apply for a Texas vanity plate, visit the Texas DMV website and start your application (plus check out the awesome plate designs and options available).

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DriversEd.com’s 5 Family Road Trips to Take in 2018

DriversEd.com's Best Family Road Trips of 2018What will you do with your two week’s vacation with the family? There are generally three schools of thought regarding a summer vacation: Staycation (home), destination (elsewhere), and exploration (road trip). We’re all about learning here at DriversEd.com, so our favorite road trip is the exploration kind, as opposed to staying put or jetting overseas. It’s the best way to enjoy our national parks, beaches, mom-and-pop shops and diners, and the country’s diverse cities.

Instead of traveling with a certain place in mind, think of the road trip as visiting hundreds of destinations. Here, we’ve gathered just a few family road trip ideas across the United States.

Alaska Highway – Unadulterated Natural Beauty

Let’s start with maybe the most difficult road trip you’ll ever encounter, at least on pavement. There are three ways to get to Alaska, the “Last Frontier”: air, sea, or land. By land, there is but a single highway that will get you across the Alaska/Canada border, the Alcan Highway. Wherever you start in the United States, once you cross the border into Canada, you’ll have to wind your way to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Alaska Highway Mile 0.

From Dawson Creek, just head north – there are no alternatives. Indeed, for some 1,400 miles, you’ll enjoy scenic vistas, mostly untouched by man, and drive hundreds of miles past blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “towns.” Still, there are good spots to pull over to sleep for the night to take a nap, as well as lodging along the way. Plan for at least a week, and be sure to stop in Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, and Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. The biggest challenge will be making sure your vehicle is in shape, carrying spare parts and extra gas, and entertainment for the kids.

Coast to Coast – Interstate 90

If it’s the open road that calls to you, but you’d rather be somewhat closer to civilization, the coast-to-coast trip, on Interstate 90, is the nation’s longest interstate highway. At just over 3,000 miles, it will take a good couple of weeks to travel it, but that mileage and time doesn’t include detours, and we suggest taking as many as possible! Located in the northern half of the country, I-90 connects Boston, MA, and Seattle, WA.

I-90 passes through 13 states and hundreds of attractions, such as the New England Aquarium, Old Sturbridge Village, Pokagon State Park, Legoland Discovery Center, Circus World Museum, the SPAM Museum, Devil’s Gulch Park, the Corn Palace, Wall Drug Store, Mount Rushmore National Monument. Notable cities along I-90 include Boston, Albany, Chicago, Sioux Falls, Madison, Toledo, Butte, Seattle, and Spokane. The biggest challenge here might be boredom, which is why we suggest plenty of detours.

Old Route 66 – A Trip through History

Old Route 66 is a classic road trip along a highway that was decommissioned in 1985, which makes it perfect for those seeking a nostalgic road trip down memory lane. This classic status is confirmed as you visit restored gas stations, classic car museums, historic post offices, and vintage diners. Over 2,500 miles long, Route 66 crosses eight states, from Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA. As with all road trips, side-trips abound, such as Death Valley National Park, Amboy Crater, Grand Canyon National Park, and Las Vegas.

Route 66 is a great combination of things to see and open road. The biggest challenge on Route 66 might be twofold: First, sweltering summer and desert temperatures will test your vehicle. Second, deciding which side-trips not to take will test your resolve, because they could easily extend your trip beyond your vacation time.

Utah Grand Circle Tour

You don’t have to cross state lines to have a great road trip. One shining example of this is the Utah Grand Circle Tour, featuring 11 days of beautiful national parks and great cities. It’s the perfect combination of natural wonder and arts and entertainment, not to mention great food!

This road trip covers six national parks and several state parks. Canyons, sunsets, rock formations, mountains, and mountain meadows are going to give you one singular challenge. The only question you need to know the answer to is, “Is my camera up to the task?” Pick up a travel guide, National Parks Pass, hiking boots, and extra batteries.

Great River Road National Scenic Byway

MississippiRiverBluffsThe Mississippi River is the nation’s second-longest river, about 100 miles shorter than the Missouri River, one of its tributaries. The Great River Road National Scenic Byway travels through 10 states along “The Big Muddy,” a trip through American history and culture. This road trip runs about two weeks and 1,400 miles, along which you’ll enjoy national and state parks, the big beautiful Mississippi River system, museums, and other attractions.

The headwaters of the Mississippi are found in Lake Itasca State Park, MN, and you can follow the flow through great cities all the way to New Orleans, LA. The National Brewery Museum is a must-see for wine and beer lovers, and a dinner/dance cruise on The river is a must-do on almost any part of the family road trip. Visit Memphis, TN, the birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll, and New Orleans, LA, for classic Creole cuisine.

Random Road Trip

Many of these family road trips require planning, but these surely aren’t the only ones you can take. Every state and every region has its own special attractions, and you don’t even have to plan very much to enjoy the ride. Really, the only things you need are a reliable car, snacks, and entertainment for the kids, and then just pick a direction. Go where the wind blows or the road leads and imagine what you’ll see!

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5 Tips for Driving through Florida’s Alligator Alley

Driving through Florida’s Alligator Alley

While Florida has more than 20 million people, it also has more than 1.25 million alligators. And the reptiles’ large population wasn’t worrisome enough, their attraction to roadways will be: alligators enjoy Florida’s hot tar roads, as they like the hot surface.

Whether you’re a resident or a tourist, there are 5 things you should know about driving through Florida’s “Alligator Alley,” an 80-mile stretch of I-75 that runs from Naples to Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Keep your distance when you encounter one on the road. Stay at least 30 feet away from an alligator if you encounter one nearby or crossing the road.

“If you encounter an alligator, keep a safe distance away from it,” says Adam Rosenblatt, University of North Florida, Biology Department. While alligators appear to be moving slowly, they can move “remarkably quick when they want to,” he adds.

Stay away from nests, when you can. These look like large piles of dirt and vegetation and are most often seen throughout the spring and summer.

“Nesting female alligators frequently guard their nests, sometimes placing themselves near the nest but in a spot where you can’t see them, and if you get too close she is likely to try and protect her eggs,” Rosenblatt says.

Do not feed alligators. It is against Florida law to feed a wild alligator. There is a great reason why the law exists; as Rosenblatt explains, “the last thing we need is a population of gators that associates humans with an easy meal.”

See an alligator on the road blocking your path? Stop your car as quickly as you can, trying not to swerve. “Running over an alligator can be deadly for the alligator and the driver alike,” says Rosenblatt. If the alligator is crossing the road, wait for it to finish and then start on your way. But if it is lying in the middle of the road not moving or appearing to have any intention of moving, drive around it if there is room and no oncoming traffic.

Do not, under any circumstances, get out of your car when you encounter an alligator on the road. Alligators have been known to attack cars they feel are too close. Rosenblatt advises drivers to call the state’s nuisance alligator hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR and wait for a trained professional to come to move the alligator from the road if you can’t safely drive around it. This also applies to visibly injured or sick alligators, regardless of whether a vehicle is involved. South Florida Wildlife Center, an affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States, recommends that drivers contact their local police department, wildlife rehabilitation center, animal control agency or Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission office for assistance.

Also, don’t attempt to run it over, as injuring or killing an alligator is punishable by law and carries a fine up to $2,500 and 30 days in jail.

Don’t wait until you’re mid-trip. Test your defensive driving skills now by trying our practice permit tests. That way, you can be prepared for whatever Florida’s Aligator Alley throws your way.
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Parents: 4 Safety Tips to Protect Your Teen Driver this ‘100 Deadliest Days’ Season

Teen Driver Safety Tips for '100 Deadliest Days'Memorial Day marks the start of “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers. During this timewhich ends on Labor Daythe risk of fatal collisions dramatically increases. More than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver during the same period in 2016, which is an average of 10 people per daya 14% increase compared to the rest of the year, according to data analyzed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Teen drivers often travel in large groups of their peers, stay out late at night, and exceed posted speed limits while on summer vacation. As a parent, you can play a vital role in mitigating the elevated level of risk by using these 4 safety tips to protect your teen.

Take Your Teen’s Vehicle in for a Safety System Check 

With crash avoidance and injury prevention as the goal, you can help your teen stay safe by bringing their vehicle into the shop for a thorough safety system check before summer arrives and every few months thereafter. Your auto technician will go over every safety system in the vehicle, including airbags, tire pressure monitors, and anti-lock brakes, to ensure the components all work as expected and perform repairs as needed. 

With all these systems working correctly, teach your teen how to correctly utilize each one in normal driving situations. Remind your teen to never rely on the safety systems alone, as they can become a crutch that may reduce the diligence of your new driver. 

Install and Monitor a Dash Camera 

Dash cameras installed at the front and rear of your teen’s vehicle have the potential to reinforce good driving habits and prevent reckless activities on the roadway.

“Dash cams can go beyond simply capturing information about a given situation on the road; they can also serve as learning toolswhen the footage is reviewed regularly,” said Chuck Hawks, CEO of  Teen Driving Solutions School, Inc. “They can give a parent the chance to praise as well as correct a new driver’s practices.” 

He further stresses the importance of dash cams as a peer pressure deterrent as teens can simply remind their friends that the cameras are rolling, and reckless driving will come with serious consequences. Consider reviewing the footage on a daily basis to touch base with your teen about their overall driving habits. 

Promote the Importance of Driving Without Distractions 

Although they will never admit it, teens look to their parents for guidance about the best practices to employ while driving. You must act as a role model for your teen by always resisting distractions, especially those coming through your cell phone, while you are behind the wheel. 

Furthermore, you should remind your teen that only a second of distracted driving can result in a severe collision that results in life-changing injuries or even death. Unlocking and using a cellphone, or even using voice commands for your vehicle’s infotainment systems, can distract drivers from the road ahead for nearly 30 seconds. Model great attentive driving behaviors by safely pulling over to utilize your digital devices or respond to a text on your cellphoneand encourage your teen to do the same. 

Enroll Your Teen in a Defensive Driving or In-Car Training Course 

Online and in-person defensive driving courses teach your teen about all the best collision avoidance techniques at their disposal. Throughout the course, teen drivers learn how to remain proactive in identifying and avoiding potential hazards on the roadway. After the course, enroll your teen in in-car training sessions to reinforce the defensive driving techniques in real-life situations with professional driving instructors. Taking your own defensive driving courses can help you learn updated safety information to effectively act as a great role model for your teen drivers. 

When you employ these 4 excellent practices in preparing your teen for their drives, you help mitigate the risks they face through and after the 100 deadliest days of the year. You can partner with eDriving to teach your teen how to safely maneuver down any roadway by signing up for defensive driving courses today. 

 

Teen Driver Safety Tips for '100 Deadliest Days'

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10 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat behind the Wheel in Honor of National Donut Day

Eating while drivingIt’s National Donut Day! What better way to celebrate a Friday holiday than with circular baked goodness, right? Well, before you head off to Krispy Kremeand trust us, we hate to be the bearer of bad newsknow that donuts are one of the worst things you can eat behind the wheel. No, not because of their calorie countsbut because of the distraction they can cause.

It’s not just sugary donuts that can steal your attention from the road; experts have also warned against ingesting any of these food and beverage items while behind the wheel, though no distraction is a safe distraction. According to a Lytx study in 2014, a driver who is drinking or eating is 3.6 times more likely to be in an automobile crash than attentive drivers who are not eating or drinking while driving.

So today, in honor of National Donut Day, avoid eating or drinking these items while driving to give the road and surrounding drivers 100% of your attention:

  • Jelly or cream-filled donuts. Has anyone eaten a jelly donut without some of the center oozing out? Raspberry jelly can be difficult at best to remove from material.
  • Coffee. One spill of this can ruin your whole morning, especially if you’re in the middle of driving.
  • Hot soup. Many people drink it like coffee and run the same risks.
  • Tacos. It’s probably not a good idea to eat something that can easily disassemble itself in your hand while behind the wheel.
  • Chili. See #3.
  • Hamburgers. Again, if it can drip, it’ll find a way to do so in your car. Don’t let that $3 burger from McDonald’s turn into a $500 or $1,000 deductible from your insurance company.
  • Barbecued food. The sauce may be great, but if you have to lick your fingers, the sauce will end up on whatever you touch.
  • Fried chicken. A driver eating fried chicken will constantly be cleaning off his or her hands from all the grease.
  • Soft drinks. Not only are they subject to spills, but also the carbonated kind can fizz as you’re drinking if you make sudden movements, and most of us remember cola fizz in the nose from childhood. It isn’t any more pleasant now.
  • Chocolate. Like greasy foods, chocolate coats the fingers as it melts against the warmth of your skin, and leaves its mark anywhere you touch. As you try to clean it off the steering wheel you’re likely to end up swerving.
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Protect Pets and Children from Hot Car Deaths this Summer

Pets and children hot car deathsAs the fun—and heat—of summer approaches, it’s time to stop and re-think who you’re leaving in your vehicle. The summer season is prime time for hot car deaths, and these tragedies are even worse knowing that they’re preventable.

You may think cracking the windows or prior air-conditioning will keep those you’re leaving inside safe—and unfortunately curious little ones can trap themselves inside, too—but you should know that within five minutes on a 90° day, the temperature within a vehicle reaches that of the outdoors, and for every nine minutes the interior temperature increases 15°. Heat enters the vehicle through windows, causing objects within the car to heat up and convection works to trap the heat inside. The Greenhouse Effect is real, and it can be dangerous. As a responsible, safe driver, here’s what you should know about the Greenhouse Effect and hot car deaths.

Understand What the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ Is

Greenhouses, or glasshouses, have been around for thousands of years, taking advantage of the differing properties of light and heat. Sunlight easily passes through transparent and translucent materials, such as glass and some fabrics, naturally heating surfaces under them. These hot surfaces, such as plants, seat covers, and people, radiate heat energy, which cannot escape its environment, whether in a greenhouse or car.

While the Greenhouse Effect is great for growing warm-weather plants in cooler climates, it’s deadly for your passengers. Your car is basically a mobile greenhouse, and you’ve likely experienced the effect every time you opened your car on a sunny day: you are greeted by a blast of overheated air as soon as you open the door. Have you ever wondered just how hot it gets?

Realize That They Can’t Help Themselves

Unfortunately, most people don’t understand this heating problem. In a test, WeatherBug Meteorologist Jacob Wycoff spent just 30 minutes in his car on a sunny day. In just 20 minutes, the temperature had climbed to 120° F. Five minutes later, a camera failed from the heat, and five minutes after that, Wycoff was going into heat stroke.

Automakers understand solar loading, which is why you almost never see automotive interiors melting down even on the hottest and sunniest days of the year. Plants, people, and pets fare much worse, however. Left unattended, the most precious members of our families are at risk of heat stress, fatigue, syncope, cramps, exhaustion, stroke, and death. Children can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults; those most at-risk are also the least able to help themselves. Pets and children in cars are simply unable to get out of their seats and open the doors.

Protect Your Loved Ones from Summer Sun

In a closed car, even with the windows “cracked open,” (ventilation does nothing) and even when it’s “not that hot,” (kids have died even on 60° days) vehicular heat stroke can cause hot car deaths among children in as little as 15 minutes. Here are a few tips to help you protect your child, or pet, this summer.

  1. Keep the car locked whenever it’s parked.
  2. Keep car keys and remotes out of reach of children.
  3. Set a reminder, like something you need in the back seat.
  4. When getting out of your car, look twice, even if you think you’re sure.
  5. Never leave your child or pet unattended, not even for a few minutes.
  6. Use drive-through services and pay for gas at the pump.
  7. If you see someone’s child in a car, call 911.
  8. If you see a child in distress, do what you must to save a life.
  9. If you see a pet in distress, call a non-emergency number.

Every year, vehicular heat stroke kills about 33 kids, 3 years old and younger. To protect your young and small passengers from summer sun, it pays to be mindful – and to check again and again.

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Don’t Be One of the Millions AAA Will Have to Rescue This Summer

More than a third of last year’s roadside calls required that the car be towed to a repair shop, and of those vehicles, 81% were more than 10 years old.

7.7 million—that’s how many drivers AAA expects to rescue this summer due to cars breaking down on the road. Now, while 67% of the calls received by the auto services provider last year were from owners of vehicles that are at least a decade old, it doesn’t mean that drivers of newer cars are safe. In fact, the company expects to service more cars nine years old and below this year, with the number of calls from drivers of older vehicles set to drop 3%. The good news, however, is that no matter how old your car is, proper preventive maintenance should not only make it last longer, but, more importantly, keep you and other drivers safer on the road as well.

“It’s no surprise that older vehicles are more likely to encounter a serious breakdown, but it is surprising just how many people are at risk,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “All vehicles – even the newest ones – are prone to typical roadside headaches like dead batteries, flat tires and misplaced keys, but vehicles 10 years and older are four times more likely to encounter a problem serious enough to require a tow to a repair facility.”

The usual suspects

According to data released by AAA, the most common problems that drivers encounter, regardless of the vehicle’s age, are with the battery or electrical system, cooling system and tires. Now, while your car’s alternator may keep it running even when your battery fails, problems with your cooling system and tires could lead to serious problems on the road. This is because when your cooling system fails and your car heats up too much, it may suddenly shut off—which is the last thing you want while speeding down the highway. As for your tires, on the other hand, worn ones simply have a greater risk of blowing out, which could cause you to lose control on the road.

What you can do

At the very least, you should follow your manufacturer’s preventive maintenance schedule. You already spent money on acquiring your vehicle; what’s a couple more bucks to keep it in top condition for as long as possible, right? Doing so will not only save you a lot on repairs, but, again, also keep you and other drivers significantly safer on the road.

This, however, doesn’t mean that you should only take your car in for a check up when the schedule says so. As a general rule, you should make it a point to always scan your car for any problems before, during and after each trip. Should you find anything out of the ordinary—like liquids pooling under it, strange sounds or busted lights—it would be best to head to your mechanic as soon as possible.

Prevention is better than cure

When it comes to cars, small problems, when left unchecked, could easily lead to serious risks and massive costs down the line. This is why skimping on preventive maintenance is one of the worst things you could do as a car owner. At the end of the day, if you want to save money and stay safe on the road, keeping your vehicle in top condition at all times should be one of your top priorities.

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Georgia Passes Distracted Driving Legislation

Georgia Passes Distracted Driving LegislationGeorgia has become the 16th state in the U.S. to enact legislation that bans drivers from using mobile devices while behind the wheel.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 673 into law May 2, telling his audience, “I know this legislation does not mend your broken hearts, but hopefully it will prevent the same kind of pain and tragedy being suffered by other families in the future.” In 2017 alone, more than 1,500 people died on Georgia highways from distracted driving-related collisions.

HB 673 prohibits individuals from using hand-held mobile devices while driving, which includes taking video or watching movies. The bill however does allow drivers to speak and text through phones, as long as it’s all hands-free.

The bill will go into effect July 1. At that point, it will be illegal to use a mobile device while behind the wheel, regardless of whether the vehicle is stopped. This includes browsing social media while stuck in traffic, using map/GPS features, taking photos, and texting. If ticketed for a distracted driving offense, first-time offenders would be fined $50, with fees increasing for repeat offenders.

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A Parent’s Take on May’s Global Youth Traffic Safety Month

Traffic crashes remain the No. 1 killer of teens – and summer is still the deadliest season for U.S. youth on the roads. In May, National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) members, partners, and youth leaders from around the country observe Global Youth Traffic Safety Month. In honor of the kickoff of the campaign, Doug Herbert, Founder and Executive Director, B.R.A.K.E.S., explains why he’s become a huge proponent of the initiative.

Skills Are Important, but Mindset and Decision-Making Are the Secret Sauce of Survival

By Doug Herbert

A Parent's Take on May's Global Youth Traffic Safety MonthOn January 26, 2008, my sons, Jon and James, were killed in a car crash about a mile from my house. Speed and inexperience were a deadly combination, and I got the phone call that no parent ever wants to receive.

Everybody deals with grief differently, but for me, a big part of it was a powerful urge to do something to protect my sons’ friends – and their parents – from facing a similar fate. I visited with my boys’ classmates, and, together, we developed the foundation of the program that would eventually turn into a charity with the mission to prevent injuries and save lives by training teens and their parents to be safer drivers.

I still go to as many of the schools as I can to share our story as a way to get audiences engaged and ready to learn what we have to teach them. Because even though the bulk of the four hours that they’re with us is spent behind the wheel learning the skills to deal with the scenarios that cause the most crashes and fatalities (distraction, drop wheel/off-road recovery, car control/skid avoidance, panic braking, crash avoidance, etc.), I believe it’s their mindset going into that experience that allows the lessons to stick and future behavior to be changed for the better.

And I’m not alone in this perspective. Cognitive psychologists and public health experts agree that the increased risks related to teen driving result from a combination of inexperience (lack of skill) and immaturity (risk-taking behavior brought on by the inability to perceive the consequences of one’s actions). We’ve designed the B.R.A.K.E.S. curriculum to address both of those factors.

One part of the story that I often talk about in class is the trouble we all have standing up to peer pressure when it comes to risky behavior behind the wheel. Sometimes it’s a teen driver being egged on by their passengers – statistics show that just the presence of two or more additional teens in the car increases the likelihood of a crash by eight times, which is why graduated driver’s license laws are so important. Other times it’s a passenger not speaking up when the driver is putting them in an uncomfortable situation.

Either way, we need to make it okay for teens to stand up to what I think amounts to a form of bullying. At every class, I tell our teens and parents I wish my younger son, James, would have said to his brother, “Hey, Dude, I don’t like how you’re driving. Let me out of the car.” That would have been a good decision, and who knows how things might be different today if he’d done that. Maybe James would still be alive; maybe they’d both be.

Jon’s and James’ classmates came up with the acronym B.R.A.K.E.S., which stands for Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe. It’s clever and memorable, but I think it’s also very fitting that it doesn’t actually mention anything about controlling a skid or making an evasive maneuver to avoid an obstacle in the road or any of the other potentially lifesaving skills and techniques that we teach in our classes.

Right now, car crashes are still the number-one cause of death among teens, and statistics show that half of all young people will experience a crash before they graduate high school, so we know there’s still a lot of work to be done in the effort to cure the epidemic of teen driving fatalities. But I know we’re making a difference. It’s impossible to say for sure how many lives B.R.A.K.E.S. has saved over the last 10 years or how many trips to the hospital have been avoided thanks to our training, but even if it was only one, I think it would all be worth it…and I think Jon and James would agree.

A Parent's Take on May's Global Youth Traffic Safety Month

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Survivor of Distracted Driving Collision Shares His Story of Recovery

The dangers of texting and driving are indisputable. When Michigan resident Brandon La Forest was hit by a distracted driver in 2010, doctors said it was unlikely he would survive. He had suffered what medics called the worst brain and head injury possible. Despite those odds, Brandon persevered, and, following many painful years of recovery, now campaigns against distracted driving. Here, Brandon shares his story with DriversEd.com as a warning to others.

Can you tell us what happened on that day?
“October 5, 2010, is just a date to me that I have no memory of, but it is a date that forever changed my life. According to a coworker who was traveling with me [at the time], I had stopped my car on the I-96 expressway in Lansing as there had been a collision. While we were stopped, a car came from behind and hit my vehicle at 80 miles per hour. My car was pushed forward into the next, and then another car hit me at 70 miles per hour. Finally, my vehicle was hit from behind again. The driver who initially hit me had been distracted by a text.”

What injuries did you sustain?
“Original reports had stated that I passed away at the scene, but a nurse who was in her car helped to revive me. I was revived three more times in the ambulance by paramedics. After I had arrived at the hospital, I underwent emergency brain surgery. When my mom got there, they told her I had one of the worst brain injuries someone could have, and they did not expect me to live through the night. If I did, they said, I would be a ‘vegetable.’

The dangers of texting and driving are indisputable. “I was placed on a ventilator and given a feeding tube, and a tracheotomy was performed. I was also battling critical injuries that included a broken back and neck; a damaged spleen that then was removed; and a collapsed lung; as well as stroke, seizures, neuropathy, shattered ribs, a blood clot in my leg, paralysis on my left side, and I had entered a coma.

“When people sustain brain injuries, hospitals assess an individual using the Glasgow Coma Scale, which is based on best eye response, best verbal response, and best motor response. The lowest score is 3 and the highest is 15. I was given a 3. I had no eye opening, no verbal response, and no motor response. Research shows that 87% of people with a best score of 3 or 4 after 24 hours will die or be in a vegetable state. Only 7% will recover with a moderate disability.”

Can you give us some insight into your journey through recovery?
“I remained in a coma for over a month…. In the end, I beat the odds, regaining consciousness and later upgrading to a brain injury recovery center called Special Tree in Romulus, MI.

 “For almost seven months I lived at Special Tree and relearned the basics of life, from dressing and bathing to walking and talking. I also had daily therapy sessions including physical, speech, occupational, massage, therapeutic, and pool therapy. I also had counselling to talk about emotions I was experiencing, like depression, anxiety, and frustration. Most people who spend time at Special Tree never get the opportunity to leave. I was among the 1% who were able to leave, and on April 12, 2011, I was discharged—it was so rare that employees came in on their day off to wish me luck. “

How do your injuries affect you day-to-day?
“I suffer from short-term memory issues, hearing loss, daily constant pain, balance issues, depression and anxiety, vision problems, spelling deficits, sleep apnea, and urinary and bowel incontinence due to my brain not being able to communicate with my body.”

When did you start campaigning against texting and driving?
“Once I was released from Special Tree I told my Mom and sister that we had to start a campaign or organization that would go to high schools and share my story. At the same time, I wanted it to be a motivational speech for kids who are also going through a tough time with a deficit or a medical condition. In 2011 we created Heads Up Phones Down.”

What does “Heads Up Phones Down” do?
“On the website we publish any of my newspaper articles [I was featured in] and sell t-shirts and wristbands. The purpose of the merchandise is not to make money, but to help raise funds for our ‘Who We Help’ campaign. The campaign helps people who are going through a difficult time and may need some type of financial assistance to apply for help. So many people helped me in my recovery that I wanted to keep paying it forward to others in need!”

What happened to the driver that hit you?
“The driver who hit me was originally charged with attempted manslaughter but pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received a fine of $583.”

More on Distracted Driving Awareness Month 2018:

 

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