Category Archives: Teens

Correct Hand Position?

Here is a question I received and answered on the now-defunct website

My daughter is learning how to drive. Her hand position is 8 and 4. I asked her driving teacher, we used to 10 & 2 or 9 & 2. The teacher says it is for airbag safety. Do you like their saying for now a day.

So, yes, the official recommendations for hand position have changed over time.  Up until the early 1990’s, the standard was to keep your hands at 10 and 2.  But starting around 1992, airbags became standard equipment, and the steering wheels actually got smaller (next time you see a vintage car in a parking lot, take a look at how huge the steering wheel is compared with a newer car).   Continue reading Correct Hand Position?

The Deadliest Season

It’s begun: the “100 Deadliest Days” of the year for teen drivers is upon us.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, an average of 399 teens will die each month, according to statistics reported by AAA.  The rest of the year averages more than 50 fewer deaths monthly.  That’s an average of 16 teens killed in car crashes every single day all summer long.

Summer starts with proms and graduations, then opens up for beach trips, mountain escapes and spontaneous road trips.  According to AAA, the seven most dangerous days on the road for teens during summer are May 20, May 23, June 10, July 4, July 9, Aug. 8 and Aug. 14.

What can parents do to keep their teens safe?

To keep teens safe during these dangerous months and year round, AAA Insurance suggests the following tips for parents:

  • Eliminate trips without purpose.
  • Limit passengers. Fatal crash rates for 16- to 19-year-olds increase fivefold when two or more teen passengers are present versus when teens drive alone.
  • Restrict night driving. A teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles at night.
  • Establish a parent-teen driving agreement. Written agreements help set and enforce clear rules about night driving, passengers, access to the car, and more.
  • Enroll teens in summer driving school.   If your teen earned their license within the past year, a refresher in defensive driving could help save their life.
  • Be there. Make sure your teen knows that if they need help, advice or a ride, they can call you at any time. Extend this offer often and let your teen know that you are always available, and that they will not be judged or punished should they need your help.

MADD also suggests:

  • Talk about alcohol.  Talk with your teens about not drinking alcohol until they are 21 and never get in the car with someone who has been drinking.
  • Buckle up. Insist on seat belts at all times and in all seating positions. Low seat belt use is one of the primary reasons that teen driver and passenger fatality and injury rates remain high.

The Facts: PA Young Driver Licensing

Pennsylvania licenses young drivers through a three-stage program, reflecting the driver’s gradual progression in skill, experience and decision-making ability.


After successfully completing a physical examination, vision screening and knowledge test, young drivers may begin behind-the-wheel practice. Basic driving skills and safe habits are developed under adult-supervised conditions. Requirements under the law include:

  • Six months of learning: A six-month skill-building period to practice and gain experience is required before a young driver may take the road test for a junior license.
  • Supervising adult for permit holder must be at least 21: An experienced, licensed driver aged 21 or older must accompany the young driver at all times.
  • 65 hours of adult-supervised skill building: A parent or guardian must certify (Parent or Guardian Certification Form (DL-180C)) that the young driver’s six months of skill building included at least 65 hours of practical, adult-supervised driving experience.
  • Nighttime driving restriction begins at 11:00 PM: The young driver may not be behind the wheel between the hours of 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM. Young drivers may travel for employment and for volunteer or charitable service during these hours, but they must carry proper documentation.
  • Passenger limitation: The number of passengers must not exceed the number of seat belts in the vehicle. This applies to all drivers under age 18.
  • Learner’s permit valid for one year: The learner’s permit will be valid for one year with extensions for those requiring more practice time.
  • Required sanctions for high-risk drivers under age 18: A young driver’s permit will be suspended for 90 days if he or she accumulates six or more points or is convicted of a single high-speed violation (driving 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit).


Young drivers who graduate to a junior license have satisfactorily completed all learner’s permit requirements, including the road test, but the following restrictions still apply:

  • Required sanctions for high-risk drivers under age 18: A young driver’s junior license will be suspended for 90 days if he or she accumulates six or more points or is convicted of a single high-speed violation (driving 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit).
  • Nighttime driving restriction begins at 11:00 PM: Even with a junior license, a young driver may not be behind the wheel between the hours of 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM. Exceptions for employment and volunteer or charitable service will apply, but young drivers must carry proper documentation regarding their need to travel.
  • Passenger limitation: The number of passengers must not exceed the number of seat belts in the vehicle. This applies to all drivers under age 18.


A full, unrestricted license – typically issued at age 18 – provides unlimited driving privileges to teenagers who have progressed through the graduated system and have an established history of safe driving, If certain conditions are met, some young drivers may qualify for an early license before age 18.

  • Unrestricted license before age 18: A young driver cannot obtain an unrestricted license before age 18 unless he or she has maintained a crash-and conviction-free record for 12 months and has completed an approved driver’s education course. To apply for an unrestricted license before age 18, young drivers must complete a special form, DL-59, and submit it to PennDOT along with a certificate of completion from an approved driver’s education course.  An affidavit of consent from a parent, guardian, person in loco parentis or spouse who is at least 18 years of age must also be provided.
  • Passenger limitation: The number of passengers must not exceed the number of seat belts in the vehicle. This applies to all drivers under age 18.
  • Required sanctions for high-risk drivers under age 18: A young driver’s unrestricted license will be suspended for 90 days if he or she accumulates six or more points or is convicted of a single high-speed violation (driving 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit).

Just In Case: Don’t Forget ICE

No one plans to be in a car crash, but they happen.  On average, more than 8,000 people are injured in car accidents every day.

If you’re hurt in a car crash, you may not be conscious, or you may not be coherent.  Emergency personnel and first responders need to know how to contact your family if something has happened to you.  The easiest way for them to do this is with your own cell phone.

You can make it easy for police and EMTs to contact your family by adding ICE contacts to your cell phone.  ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency” – they’re trained to look for these alphabetically in your address book.

Create a new contact that looks like this:

ICE Mom 215-555-1212

Begin the entry with “ICE” and follow it with some descriptive context for who the person is to you – mom, dad, uncle, husband, wife, etc.  Add more than one ICE contact if needed.

Autistic Teens Want To Drive

A study released by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Center For Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) looks at teens with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders and driving.  They found that, among their sample of 300 teens, two-thirds are already driving or expect to drive.

“As a clinician who specializes in children with disabilities, I was interested to find that so many teens with high functioning autism spectrum disorders want to drive and do,” says Patty Huang, MD, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at CHOP and the lead author of the study. “We need to help them. Establishing a few indicators for these teens that will likely have an interest in driving is the first step in developing targeted strategies and interventions to support them and their families.”

The findings suggest that parents of teens with HFASDs would benefit from guidance in deciding if driving is the right choice for their individual family. Readiness to drive can be difficult to assess, and parents should be encouraged to seek the help of their child’s physician, an occupational therapist or driving instructor.

Modern Driver Institute is the only driver education provider in Pennsylvania that specializes in working with individuals with autism.   We recommend that driving goals be incorporated into your student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Teach Your Toddler To Drive

No, we at Modern Driver Institute don’t actually teach toddlers how to drive.  We won’t train anyone under the age of 16 behind the wheel.  But as parents, you’ve been teaching your child to drive all of her life.

Think about how children learn other things.  They learn to walk, talk, eat with utensils and every other skill by watching us, their families.  They learn by mimicking our behaviors.  And they’re in their car seats in the back of the family sedan, watching you drive.  And they’re learning.

When your child turns 16 and begins serious training to get their license, they’re starting off with a set of learned behaviors conjured from a lifetime of watching mom and dad drive them around.  Everything you do behind the wheel can become a part of their driving.  Do you roll through stop signs?  Drive aggressively?  Give in to distractions (say, talk on the phone)?  If you routinely yell at other drivers, roll through stop signs or speed, your kids will do it too.

Set the best example you can, be as consistent as possible, and start as young as possible.  It’ll all pay off when your teen is driving.

Parents Teaching Distracted Driving Habits

“The learner should realize that every careless and inattentive act on his part, not only endangers his life, but the lives of his passengers, pedestrians, and occupants of other vehicles.”

That quote comes from Amos Neyhart, from his foundational 1934 work Instruction Book on the Safe Operation of a Motor Vehicle for Teachers and Learners.  Neyhart, a professor at Penn State, originated the entire field of driver’s education.  He taught students in the classroom and behind the wheel in his own car, a 1929 Graham-Paige.  That particular car didn’t have a radio.  Neyhart himself died in 1990, a decade before cell phones and GPS devices began to transform the inside of a car and really define what modern distractions are.

The words Neyhart published 78 years ago seem more prescient than anything from Nostradamus as modern cars and modern technology tempt us to distraction more every day.  Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of today’s crashes and vehicle fatalities, and something we modern driving instructors must continually address.

Parents, you don’t seem to be helping as much as you could.  According to a new survey by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Toyota, teens who think their parents drive distracted are 3 times as likely to drive distracted themselves.  Remember, your kids start watching your driving behavior the moment you place them in a forward-facing car seat and get behind the wheel.  Everything you do, they see, and children are wonderful mimics of parental behavior.  Click here to read more about the new study.

Parents, take the time to go on a little inquest and take a strong, objective look at your driving behavior.  If you can’t, have someone help you – solicit opinions from family and friends who often ride with you.  If you’re not sure what behaviors to model for your children, why not give us a call?  An hour with a professional instructor can reveal worlds about your driving, including dangerous habits you’re likely not even aware of yourself.

Driver education hasn’t changed much since the Neyhart days of the Great Depression.  He recognized then that distracted drivers are dangerous drivers.  What has changed is how very easily we can become distracted behind the wheel, and how much more dangerous we’ve become as drivers.

At Modern Driver Institute, we’re here to help ALL drivers, even the 87% of licensed Americans over the age of 30 who earned their driving privileges before cell phones existed and who are likely now training tomorrow’s drivers, just by modeling behaviors.

The Deadly Truth About Rural Roads

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a detailed study of vehicle crashes from the year 2010 which found that 55% of fatal crashes happened in rural areas.  That’s 2.5 times the rate of fatal crashes for urban areas, despite the fact that only 19% of the population lives in rural areas – or maybe because of that.

Rural roads tend to be narrow, two lanes and can be full of sharp curves and hills that limit sight distance.  Drivers who are comfortable in urban and suburban settings just may not have the experience to survive the particular challenges these roads present.  They require an understanding of how the laws of physics impact your car as well as a keen attention to detail, both in seeing/understanding the advance warning signs and interpreting the road ahead for danger.

Pennsylvania fared slightly better than the national average, but more than half the fatal crashes during that year happened in rural environments.  Pennsylvania ranked sixth nationwide in the number of deaths on rural roads.

To see the complete NHTSA report, click here.

Modern Driver Institute trains students on some of the most challenging rural roads in the area as part of our standard program.

CDC Study Shows Changing Risks For Teens

Times, they are a’changing.

A new CDC survey of more than 15,000 high school students shows some interesting trends: the risky behaviors teens engage in behind the wheel are changing.

In 1991, 26% of teens admitted to “never or rarely” buckling up for a drive.  Twenty years later, only 8% admit to the same risky behavior.  That’s a terrific reduction, and it shows that the positive messages of driver education can make a difference.  Likewise, the number of teens who admitted to either drinking while driving or riding with someone who had dropped by half.  These two particular risks have plagued teens (and driving instructors) for the past 50 years, and finally seem to be on the decline – only to be replaced.

The new survey finds that a third of teens admit to texting while driving, and more teens now smoke pot than cigarettes, believing marijuana to be “safer” than tobacco.

Texting while driving is now illegal in Pennsylvania, but teens face only minor fines if they’re actually caught.  Not all states treat the issue so lightly – Massachusetts recently convicted a teen of vehicular homicide for texting while driving.  As for the rise in pot usage, blame an overly-aggressive anti-smoking campaign combined with a media spotlight on medical marijuana for confusing our kids.  Whatever side of the cancer argument you might be on, no one questions that the active ingredients in marijuana impair safe driving ability.  It’s hard to make that argument about tobacco.

There are more than 8 million licensed drivers in our state alone.  The roads become more congested and more dangerous every year, and our teens are becoming more and more impaired, by technology and by materials they consume without understanding the dangers.


Make sure that you have a Driving Contract with your newly licensed teen, and make sure that it explicitly forbids texting and marijuana use, in addition to forbidding drinking and other drugs.  Have a talk with them about what marijuana can do to their mind, or have them talk with someone who knows.  Install software on their phone which disables the ability to text while driving.

And keep up the seat belt messages – at least we’re getting through to them on that one.