By on July 9, 2009

On October 31, 2006, Orange County teen Nikki Catsouras had an argument with her father. When Mr. Catsouras left for work, his daughter “borrowed” his Porsche 911. Approaching a tollbooth, Catsouras rear-ended a Honda at 70 mph. The California Highway Patrol took photographs of the gruesome results, the photos were leaked and went viral. Catsouras sued the police for invasion of privacy. Lost in the shuffle: why was Miss Catsouras–a young, inexperienced driver— legally entitled to drive the Porsche?

The issue is pretty easy to understand: should young, inexperienced motorists be allowed to drive high-powered cars? Australia says no. This despite a 2006 study by the University of Western Australia (funded by red light camera income) that concluded that only three percent of young driver crashes involved vehicles with a high power-to-weight ratio. The state of Victoria, for example, has instituted a power-to-weight related graduated license program for young drivers. Since July 2007, a probationary driver can’t drive a car which has:

  • an engine of eight or more cylinders;
  • a turbocharged or supercharged engine;
  • an engine that has been modified to improve the vehicle’s performance; nor
  • one of the nominated high performance six cylinder vehicles which include BMW M and M3, Honda NSX, Nissan 350Z, Porsche (all models) and Mercedes Benz SLK350

As a sign, perhaps, of the laws arbitrary nature, there are exceptions to the rules:

  • diesel powered turbocharged or supercharged vehicles (without engine performance modifications);
  • nominated vehicles with low powered turbocharged or supercharged engines including Suzuki Cappucino 2D Cabriolet Turbo 3 cylinder 698cc, Daihatsu Copen L880 2D Convertible 4 cylinder 659cc;
  • all models of the Smart car produced by Mercedes Benz; and
  • vehicles driven as a part of the driver’s employment and at the request of the employer

So, how did we get here? Back in the infancy of automobiles the “driving high-powered cars fast” concept was simple—you didn’t. “You” meaning the average driver. Throughout most of the twentieth century, fast cars were a specialty item created by and for professional racers, gentlemen racers, and a small (if geographically diverse) cult of hot rodders. Sure, there were plenty of accidents in low-speed cars, and not much in the way of passive safety, but there was a clear delineation between average schmoes in their “normal” mainstream cars and pistonheads in “high performance exotica.”

Then 1964 happened. Before his love of white lines brought him down, high-flying GM executive John DeLorean decided to plunk a 389 cubic inch motor into a $2751 Pontiac Tempest ($296 option). Suddenly, the pimply-faced nerd pumping gas at the corner Texaco station could own a car with 325 horsepower. The muscle car era was born. Engine power increased, to the point where the Tempest (a.k.a. GTO) offered 360hp @ 5200 rpm, 424 lb·ft of torque @ 3600 rpm and a zero to sixty sprint of just over six seconds. Ford and Chrysler quickly adopted the Tempest template.

The muscle car era peaked in 1968, with the 383 hp (pre-emissions) Plymouth Roadrunner—the limbo bar set at an all time low for affordability. While it’s impossible to break out all the variables which led to a dramatic drop in highway fatalities as the muscle car ended, the association of teens, high-powered cars and death was enshrined in popular culture. Dead Man’s Curve anyone?

Fast forward to 2009. If you think technology has made things better, you may be right. Today’s SRT-8, SS and SHO models have safety built in. They offer better brakes and more predictable handling. But the accessibility is a double-edged sword. That Corvette Z06, for example, offers just enough handling to allow an average driver to drive 120 mph off an exit ramp—but not enough to stop him from trying it at 121.

Motorcyclists are the canary in the power-to-weight safety campaigners’ coal mine. It’s now generally recognized that novice bikers shouldn’t be allowed to sit atop machines that can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in three seconds and top-out at 135 mph even if they can afford the price of admission. The UK has the most extensive motorcycle graduated license program: three stages of empowerment based on the bike’s horsepower and speed potential.

What makes a car any different? When you can buy a 400 horsepower motor the size of a sewing machine and put it in a street Honda Civic it’s time to evaluate the guy behind the wheel. When Ford dealers hand the keys to a 500 hp Mustang to a twenty-something enthusiast with a basic down payment, it’s time to ask if he should have a license proving the basic ability to handle the horses.

This is the Henry Ford ‘average guy’ concept of affordable cars gone rogue. Skip the Darwinian argument. Stop it now because the kid that eats a mailbox on the 150 mph donorcycle that he bought with his paper route money might be the next Nobel-winning nerd. If a mandatory performance-driving course makes a difference for bikes, then this bit of nanny state-ism makes sense.

[For more of Jerry and Jim Sutherland’s work please visit mystarcollectorcar.com]

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147 Comments on “The Case for Power-to-Weight Graduated Driver’s Licenses...”


  • avatar
    Jesse

    Pretty sure that happened more recently than ’88.

    Sad story though.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    The issue is pretty easy to understand: should young, inexperience motorists be allowed to drive high-powered cars?

    NOPE.

    First, a driver must learn how to drive a car. Would you hand a million dollar guitar over to some kid who doesn’t know how to play guitar? I hope not… the kid is just going to trash it or break the strings or something.

    A person must learn how to turn a car… and learn the concept of “driving dynamics” before they are allowed to drive something powerful. They must learn reaction time… how to avoid accidents… how to shift a car… how to stop a car.

    So far, I have NEVER had an accident in my entire life. The most dire situation ever was when I tapped a bumper when I was still in High School. Another small incident was when I rubbed the side of a truck on a building (small little scratch). My reaction time and skill have always allowed me to avoid causing damage to another person or their vehicle on the road.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    A good editorial.

    “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

    P. J. O’Rourke

    My father always said that the ideal 1st car for a teenage male was a Crown Vic or the like with a 80hp 4 cylinder. Ford is moving in this direction with the ability to limit the top speed of the vehicle for each user profile. My 1st car , a 1990 Subaru Wagon was close to this underpowered ideal with a whopping 110hp of opposed piston fury.

    We already have a graduated licensing scheme in the US via the auto insurance. The cost to insure a young driver on an STI or the like is quite steep.

  • avatar
    jaje

    There is another side to this rather than the raw power a car makes compared to its mass – I think the overall mass of the vehicle should also be considered as a danger to others on the road from an inexperienced pilot. Such as those driving large 5-6,000lb battering ram of an SUV as their main mode of transportation. We were lied to by the D3 that size and weight was safe when reality was that once these behemoths were moving they couldn’t get out of their own way and when you tried the flipped over very easily especially with an inexperienced driver. I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen a big SUV fly by me rather than some sleek sports car. IMHO SUVs and large pickups give a greater false sense of security at higher speeds b/c of how poorly they handle and stop.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Good article. However, it seems simply too difficult to regulate that issue. It should be up to parents to police their kids. I know mine will have some old VW Golf or Volvo wagon.
    I laugh when I see kids driving powerful cars, always with an attitude that only people with very large brains or penises should have, and too often driving much faster than their skills allow.

  • avatar
    TonUpBoi

    I work in a motorcycle shop.

    While I’m normally against additional government regulation of all forms, I long ago developed one exception to that rule: motorcycle licensing. I firmly believe that the US needs to adopt the British system of graduated licensing, only with no exceptions or ways around the stepped system.

    As in, if you’re really serious about wanting to ride a Harley or a 600/1000cc sport bike, you can bloody well pay your dues at 250cc with a big red “L” for all the world to see.

    Passing this concept over to cars however is going to be difficult, as motorcycles of a given engine size are usually pretty easy to classify in performance. Cars are a bit more complex.

    We definitely have to get past the classic American “license from a Cracker Jack box” licensing scenario, however. Somewhere along the line, the concept of “driving is a privilege” has been turned into “driving is a basic human right”.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    An interesting concept, but in this case it was irrelvant, as the wording you chose, “borrow” with the quotes indicates to me that she did not have permission to drive the car. This case notwithstanding, for one reason or another parents seem to be willing to put their kids into cars they have no reason to be driving. The Subaru WRX STi is a great car, just not in the hands of a freshly licensed 17-year old. Considering we’ve had several incidents here in Connecticut in the past couple years where kids driving Subaru STi’s killed themselves and their carload of friends, this is probably not the worst idea in the world.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Jerry Sutherland: “Stop it now because the kid that eats a mailbox on the 150 mph donorcycle that he bought from his paper route money might be the next Nobel winning nerd.”

    No. Doing 150mph on a donorcycle is pretty much proof that the rider was never going to earn a Nobel prize.

    Outside of that, I agree with you. Licenses should be provisional and limited for three years or so. In addition to power to weight there should also be restrictions on GVW, the number of other people in the car, family vs non, cell phone use and perhaps some other things. All these things could be waived if another licensed driver (over a certain age) was present in the vehicle.

    Good luck with this. Many kids get a set of keys to something because their parents want them to drive. In Suburbia, where nothing is convenient, the car makes the lifestyle feasible. Many parents strongly want their children to work and more than a few want their older ones to act as chauffeurs for the younger ones. The vehicle is often big, “to keep Junior safe,” without much thought to the safety of others.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    And, yeah, a 4-cylinder boredom-mobile is an excellent starter car. Our kids had the use of a very old Volvo 240 wagon. Ford’s profile system sounds interesting, too.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    The issue is pretty easy to understand: should young, inexperience motorists be allowed to drive high-powered cars?

    Btw, my first car was a (source MSN Autos) whopping 130 horsepower Audi 5000 “S” model. It was heavy. It taught me how to avoid accidents and how to take turns. It also taught me not to leave the headlights on in the High School parking lot! Strength of the wolf is the pack, strength of the pack is the wolf (or something like that). ;)

  • avatar
    Caffiend

    The problem with instituting such a program is that there won’t be a bright line. Excluding any mods is overly broad. HP along would require some serious knowledge on the part of the police. Obviously a database could do it, but it’d add another complication of the officer on the street.

    /oh, and Nikki Catsoulas died on 10/31/06, she was born in 88.

  • avatar
    Boff

    This despite a 2006 study by the University of Australia (funded by red light camera income) that concluded that only three percent of young driver crashes involved vehicles with a high power to weight ratio.

    I’d be surprised if the data were any different in North America. The major causes of death in young drivers are recklessness, inexperience, and alcohol. So why operate on a patient’s heart when it’s his brain giving him trouble? I’ve got a better idea. Upgrade driver education. And make it more challenging to get a license.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    Going viral on the Net in 1988 is quite impressive!

  • avatar
    jmo

    The best bet is one of the GPS monitors that will e-mail you if the car exceeds certain parameters. If acceleration, speed, lateral g exceed certain limits you get an e-mail.

    You could then give the kid any car safe in the knowlege that both of you knew that any unsafe driving would trigger an automated e-mail or txt message.

    That would also help kids who are being egged on by idiot friends. “Sorry dude, I’ll get a call from my dad 2 seconds after we try a smoke show.”

  • avatar
    thehomelessguy

    Not to nitpick, but the girl was born in 1988 and the accident happened in 2006, as the first poster pointed out (there wasn’t much of a chance of viral internet photos in 1988 with how primitive computers were back then).

  • avatar

    I am a huge proponent of engine size graduated licensing. My first bike was a 350cc single-cylinder dual-sport. Everyone who gets a motorcycle license should be put in the position to feel what getting thrown off your bike at 40kph feels like. It makes you appreciate how much 140kph would hurt…

    And HP/CurbWeight would be a great place to start, although I appreciate the comment about the SUVs. What I would add is that there should be some sort of roll-off around retirement. How can an 85 year old be allowed to drive a 425hp Chrsyler 300 with out some sort of (effective) check to see if he/she can handle that kind of power?

  • avatar
    jmo

    Oh, and a 16 yo drinking age and a 18yo driving age would do this country a world of good.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    A workaholic executive just wants to buy a cool gift for their kid to make up for the lost time. A high powered sports car will make the kid happy and win major points as a parent. What’s the issue here?

    NOTE: This is sarcasm BTW

  • avatar
    TreyV

    Correlation is not causation here. The teen involved head-on rear-ended another vehicle at 70 mph in a tollbooth zone. Name me a car sold today in which this could _not_ have been accomplished?

    That point aside, training of teen/new drivers in vehicle dynamics at or near the limit is mostly non-existent.

  • avatar
    blau

    To nitpick further: your first paragraph reads as if Ms. Catsouras sued the police for invasion of privacy. The suit was filed by the parents, and the pictures over which it was filed were of Ms. Catsouras’s mangled corpse.

  • avatar
    kovachian

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    So we have reached this slippery slope. I would say that for everyone the assessment of driving skills should be greater. You are just as able to kill someone and yourself with 100hp Aveo (too much power?) as a 500hp (Mustang). Age tends to lead people to believe they drive better as well but I have seen several silvertops drive their “chickvette” off into ditches and or lightpoles (viagra and driving dont mix). Let the games begin.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This is one of those things that sounds like a great idea at the gut level, but isn’t.

    If you look the accident data, it’s becomes fairly obvious that a kid can get into trouble with just about anything. Having an engine attached to wheels is all that is needed for a kid to wreak havoc. Such a law would be ineffective and a waste of resources, distracting law enforcement from doing other things that actually do work.

    There is no magic bullet answer, as no amount of training, lecturing, moralizing or legislating is going to stop teens from being teens. Expensive, cumbersome “solutions” and complicated laws won’t work.

    We could do a few simple things that would help, although they wouldn’t be cure-alls:

    -Raise the driving age to 18, with only hardship cases allowed for exceptions. The immaturity of your average 16 or 17 year old is egregious enough that most of them should avoid driving altogether.

    -Have a fairly long probationary period (i.e. 1 year or so) that mandates that one of these scarlet letter-type doo-dads be attached to the car driven by a driver on a provisional license: http://pcell.learndriving.info/pictures/Corolla%20Plate%20L.JPEG This is the norm in other countries, and makes it easier for the cops to keep an eye on the young-‘ens.

    I’ve got a better idea. Upgrade driver education.

    Enthusiasts need to read the research on drivers education, which almost universally concludes that it doesn’t help. You can’t fix a reckless, hormonally-powered attitude with education, it doesn’t work and you aren’t going to find valid research that concludes otherwise.

  • avatar
    geeber

    She hit the Civic at 70 mph, not 150 mph. An Aveo can easily do 70 mph. So, for that matter, can the Grand Marquises and Town Cars that many people advocate for young drivers because they are boring and dull, and therefore supposedly not conducive to reckless driving.

    So while I understand the motivation, this strikes me as another attempt that is aimed more at making people feel good because it looks like they are doing something, as supposed to really doing something.

    And please note that fast cars were available to the masses long before 1964. The flathead V-8 Fords were quite quick for the day, and were eagerly sought out as used cars by young men in the 1940s and 1950s. And they didn’t even have hydraulic brakes until 1939. The 1955 Chevrolet V-8 was also fast, easily modified, and quite popular with younger drivers (particularly on the used-car market).

    Pch101: -Have a fairly long probationary period (i.e. 1 year or so) that mandates that one of these scarlet letter-type doo-dads be attached to the car driven by a driver on a provisional license: http://pcell.learndriving.info/pictures/Corolla%20Plate%20L.JPEG This is the norm in other countries, and makes it easier for the cops to keep an eye on the young-’ens.

    When Pennsylvania instituted a graduated licensing system that gave 16-year-olds a provisional license with more restrictions, fatal accidents among that group dropped by a substantial amount.

    I believe that your suggestions would do more to prevent too many newly minted young drivers from killing themselves or anyone else, as opposed to simply banning them from driving high-horsepower vehicles.

  • avatar

    Maybe safety is the fulcrum that is needed to finally get Eurofacturers to import some cars that don’t have huge motors into the U.S..

    (Lack of demand for) Fuel efficiency certainly hasn’t worked to force their hand.

    Imagine if you could go to a VW, Audi, Volvo, BMW or Mercedes dealer in the States and get a model that didn’t come with one of the top-spec motors available in the rest of the world.

    Volvo loves selling safety, but its entry level model can’t be had in America with less than 227 horsepower.

    VW’s entry level U.S. gasser is a bit better at 170 horsepower, but that is 80 more than the ’85 Cutlass Ciera I drove until I was 25.

    I wonder how much less safe would happen to teenagers if a little bunny could be had with under 100 ponies.

    (And yes, I know the current U.S. TDI has a smaller stable, but I’m choosing to fight one battle at a time here.)

  • avatar
    brettc

    I grew up driving a ’94 Accord sedan and ’91 Dodge Ram 50 pickup. Pretty tame vehicles. I taught myself to drive a 5 speed in an ’85 Jetta diesel. Kids that are allowed access to high performance vehicles should be trained how to drive them properly. Or maybe their parents should be trained to not give them the keys and everything else they might want.

  • avatar

    Fixed the date. Was easy, she’s immortalized in Wikipedia. Which has other interesting info:

    “As an 8-year-old, Ms. Catsouras was diagnosed with a brain tumor and doctors did not think she would survive. The tumor was benign, but Ms. Catsouras underwent intensive radiation treatment. As a result, doctors told her parents the effects of that treatment on her young brain might show up at some point in the future by causing changes in her judgment or impulse control.”

    “Family members told Newsweek magazine they believed those changes may have been why she, the summer before the accident, tried cocaine and ended up in the hospital in a cocaine-induced psychosis. Her family also confirmed she used cocaine again the night before the accident.”

    “There are allegations that Ms. Catsouras lost driving privileges to her own car (not the Porsche) the night before the accident, with her father taking her keys from her. On the day of the accident, Ms. Catsouras along with her parents ate lunch together. After lunch, Mr. Catsouras left for work while her mother remained at home. About ten minutes later, her mother heard a door slam along with footsteps out the back door. As she walked toward the garage, she was able to see Ms. Catsouras backing out of the driveway in her father’s Porsche 911 Carrera — a car she was not allowed to drive. The mother called the father, who began driving around trying to find his daughter. While in the car, he called 911 for help, apparently minutes before the accident, and was put on hold. When taken off hold, the dispatcher informed him of the accident.”

    This is not a case for power-to-weight graduated driver’s licenses. This is a case for not letting psychotic drug addicts behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    When Mr. Catsouras left for work, the his daughter “borrowed” his Porsche 911.

    Would it have mattered if it was “illegal” for the young lady to drive her dad’s car? No. She might have taken the car anyway.

    You can’t legislate common sense.

    That being said, there are a lot of people in their mid-to-late 20s who are not responsible enough to use their vehicles safely. The ones we read about are sports figures and celebs. Is Paris Hilton responsible enough to drive her SLR?

    So on one hand, age really has nothing to do with it. If one wanted to be logical about it, one would base this sort of law on driving experience, rather than chronological age.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I fail to see how restricting an individual’s right to drive a given type of vehicle will actually stop them from driving said type of vehicle.

    Do they actually think that irrational teens are going to give the proverbial “rat’s ass” about the law when they are throwing an extended temper tantrum?

    There are third party companies making PCM programs that will not only optimize performance but also give you varying performance modes (i.e. “valet mode”). I had one of these programs on my 1.8T Passat. There are those that argue that doing so poses a potential risk because the person driving in the reduced performance mode will not have all of the power available to them that they should. I see this as sophistry; aside from Jack Baruth and the odd “pro-am” Posche 911 driver, I don’t know of anybody who has successfully extricated themselves from a dangerous situation by ADDING power.

    I don’t see why this isn’t available as a $100 option on almost any car with more than 200hp.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    Fine idea.

    While you are at it, why not have all ADULTS tested for graduated licensing as well?

    There are just as many 35-year-olds unqualified to drive as teenagers, and quite a few who’s license would read “Licensed to Ride the Bus.”

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    @Geeber:

    Just because she hit at 70 doesn’t mean she wasn’t hard on the brakes at 200 yards from 150.

    If she had been going 70 to begin with then she would have been far more likely to stop in time.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Parents should treat the car keys as carefully as a loaded gun. Dad hopefully wouldn’t have left a loaded Glock sitting on the kitchen table, eh?

    Graduated licensing makes sense, though I doubt it would have stopped this kid from stealing dad’s car.

  • avatar

    It might help if we had driver training that actually taught driving instead of parallel parking skills. If you get a pilot’s license, you have to demonstrate proficiency not only in taking off, but in landing, stall recovery and a variety of conditions; then you’re allowed only to fly what you have been rated for which is typically a light, single engined aircraft. You must demonstrate proficiency in each type before you’re licensed to operate it.

    The fact is that we don’t know how many accidents were avoidable, but it didn’t happen because the driver ran out of talent. In the case of this specific young woman, it may not have helped at all, but it is also possible that if she had better training it would have been avoided.

    This not only applies to young drivers, but to anyone changing car or motorcycle types. The idea that any idiot who has learned to drive in a Civic can then get into a Suburban and be a competent driver is simply laughable; the dynamics of the Suburban are totally different.

  • avatar
    Loser

    It doesn’t matter what kind of car a kid is driving. I was a kid at one time and found all kinds of ways to almost kill myself with a 6 cylinder Ford Granada.

    Another issue everyone seems to overlook is we don’t teach people how to drive in America, we teach them how to get a license.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    @The Comedian:

    Volvo sells the V50 and S40 with the 2.4 liter I-4 engine which is only 168hp.

  • avatar

    This proposal is silly and overreaching. Even a Yugo could reach 70 mph.

    The issue is careless drivers. They’re dangerous regardless of speed or horsepower.

    New laws aren’t the solution. Most of what they do is harangue reasonable drivers.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If one wanted to be logical about it, one would base this sort of law on driving experience, rather than chronological age.

    This is another point that is contradicted by the research on the subject.

    Again, enthusiasts need to understand that accidents are generally not caused by a lack of technical ability, so much as they are by attitudes. The emotional immaturity of the young driver is a major contributor.

    The brain of a 17 year old is not fully developed, and lacking in impulse control. All things being equal, older drivers with one year of experience will have lower accident rates than would 17 year olds with one year of experience.

    That developmental problem can’t be fixed with training or experience. The easiest way of dealing with them would be to simply keep them from driving altogether. In the absence of a complete ban, more monitoring of their behavior would be better than nothing.

  • avatar
    Boff

    Enthusiasts need to read the research on drivers education, which almost universally concludes that it doesn’t help. You can’t fix a reckless, hormonally-powered attitude with education, it doesn’t work and you aren’t going to find valid research that concludes otherwise.

    I don’t think we’ve tried hard enough. Here is an interesting presentation from the European perspective:

    http://www.ntsb.gov/Events/symp_driver_ed/presentations/siegrist.ppt

    There is some evidence that things like second-phase training (skills training and intensive ride-alongs, mostly) provides a safety benefit. Yeah teens are not going to start driving like grannies en masse, and no system will prevent all tragedies from occurring, but I would be pretty surprised if, for example, a day at skid control school didn’t wake at least some of them up to how quickly things can go pear-shaped.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Jeez, no wonder they wanted the pictures stopped:

    http://www.barbecuestopper.com/forum/f10/nicole-catsouras-nikki-lost-control-porsche-hits-toll-booth-gory-pictures-1248/

    If the poor person in the Honda got killed instead there would be a lot more outrage.

    There is a lot to be said for graduated licensing. Nobody learns to race in an F1 car.

    The above accident is an anomaly, freeways, where almost any car can get up to speed eventually, are actually really safe. High performance cars allow stupid speeds to be reached in neighborhoods and urban/suburban streets where those speeds could not be achieved in a lesser car. And those areas are where bad accidents occur.

    Right now insurance companies attempt to keep kids out of high performance cars with very high insurance rates, but some people are still able to afford those insurance rates.

    There is strong precedent with motorcycles, almost all states treat sub 50cc motorcycles differently, and I believe that some states prohibit certain cc levels under the age of 18.

    The problem is that creating a good policy is going to be very difficult. HP? V6 family sedans make close to 300 HP, and manufacturers will just sandbag their HP ratings. Displacement? Not very representative at all anymore, an S2000 is a crazier ride than a lot of cars with twice the displacement. Turbos? A huge number of compact cars will soon have turbos on small engines for fuel economy reasons.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I’m (once more) totally with Pch101 here. Give young drivers a long probation period. Here in Germany there’s a zero blood alcohol rule for the few few years, in addition to a strict limit on traffic violations. It really has helped. Neuroscience has shown that the human brain is not well able to assess risks until around the age of 26, so young people need society’s strong hand.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Yes I believe in low-powered POS cars for teenagers, but then I’m biased, my first car was an 1982 Chevrolet Celebrity with the Iron “Puke” 4 cyl engine.

    Having said that I managed to top it out at 85 mph and get the car airborne at the top of a rolling hill in NW Ohio. It actually flew quite well and landed quite nicely.

    2nd car: 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, 4D, 307V8, quadrajet carb. Huge heavy and all of 140hp, but I still manged to power slide it sideways through a Detroit left while I lived in the Motor City. (But that was at age 25.)

    3rd car: 1997 Ford Escort Wagon, lack of driver attention, caused me to launch it airborne, a few inches off the pavement when I missed a stop sign out in rural Ohio.

    What did it teach me? F&#@ pay attention!

    “Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn by no other.” – Benjamin Franklin

  • avatar
    keepaustinweird

    I think “Loser” captured the key point best: “We don’t teach people how to drive in America, we teach them how to get a license.”

    Frankly I don’t think anything will stop teens – or other reckless drivers of any age – from driving outside their skillset envelop unless they are shocked into a moment of pause. I would think that anyone exposed to the aftermath photos from this wreck – or others like it – would have them burned into their brains for a long, long time.

    That may make a difference, because no sane person, once exposed to the consequences, would shrug them off.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Nonsense.

    The issue is one of parental wisdom and control – not a role for the government.

    I did plenty fine taking a ’78 Ford Fiesta all the way to 100 mph as a teen. 0-60 in 12 seconds from a 75-HP 4-cylinder 1.6L engine.

    No regulation could have prevented the danger I presented to myself and others with such behavior.

    This article sits up there with Smart car crash test videos and the discussions they generate.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    gslippy:

    No, it’s not a parental control issue. With your line of logic we could have parents let their 12 year olds drive if the parents thought it was appropriate.

    Parents can set higher guidlines for their kids, but the government has always set guidlines for what kids are allowed to drive on public roads at what ages.

    Also, did you get your Fiesta up to 100 mph on a conrolled access freeway or rural road, or in a residential neighborhood or between stoplights in an urban or suburban setting? It makes a big difference.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Physics is not taught properly, especially so in the USA.

    Combine that with outright idiots like a recent current TTAC columnist who believe that somehow technology/mass/strength will save them (screw the other road users) and people die.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Of all the people I’ve known in my life who died in car accidents… every single one died in high school doing something stupid. At my small high school, seemed like there was an annual fatal car crash.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    I don’t know of anybody who has successfully extricated themselves from a dangerous situation by ADDING power.

    You now know one.

    Rather than this becoming a political issue I propose that Licensing and training be a function of the Insurance company and the people financing it in the same way that nobody would put a huge semi they owned or were responsible for in the hands of somebody who had never operated one before.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Another thing, how can one sue for invasion of privacy for an incident in a public place?

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    There’s no accounting for human nature, I’m afraid.

    If you were to limit teenagers to electric golf carts, they would still find ways to crash them.

    Preventing teenagers from driving exotic cars unless it was for work would just make rich/irresponsible parents put the kids on the company payroll.

    I imagine that plenty of kids drive their mother’s Jag or their father’s Corvette whether or not they are licenced, insured or permitted to do so.

    Extra driver training in, for example, skid control just leads many people to drive recklessly. Going on a two day course makes people believe that they have the skill of a young Walter Röhrl.

    I am firmly convinced that there are plenty of conscientious, sensible young people on the roads. Unfortunately, they don’t make the headlines or indeed the laws.

    “nobody would put a huge semi they owned or were responsible for in the hands of somebody who hand never operated one before.”

    Sorry but that comment made me laugh.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    “nobody would put a huge semi they owned or were responsible for in the hands of somebody who hand never operated one before.”

    yeah that comment was made in the best of all worlds not knowing much about the trucking world.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Going on a two day course makes people believe that they have the skill of a young Walter Röhrl.

    Walter’s first job was driver for the Archbishop of Bavaria (or Munich) so he had a little more divine intervention, possibly.

  • avatar
    sutski

    I like the GPS/Dad calling idea as it is good to give him/her a way to avoid caving to peer pressure.

    Biometric fingerprint pass to see who is driving then the car auto sets up for the relevant driver, i.e if it is daughter/son motor settings restricted until they are 25yrs old and still have a clean license that proves they are worthy!

    I also think everyone should be made to sit in a 20mph crash test with airbags going off too so you also get an idea of the incredible forces involved.

    I think we all become better drivers after a crash, so maybe this may help avoid a few fatal ones once they realise how hard you actually hit.

    Would be fun to do anyway !!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What did the car have to do with this accident?

    That’s a good point. This is possible in any car, regardless of power level. There’s nothing to stop a kid in Hyundai Pony from doing the same thing; heck, there’s less to stop someone, considering the braking power of a Pony versus a 911. Slapping them in a big, heavy, underpowered car will just shift the problem from “Kids kills self at 70mph” to “Kid at 70mph kills family in a Civic” which isn’t really an improvement.

    Kids will do stupid things regardless of the car in question or the training they’ve had. Your best bet, as a parent, is to try to help your kids understand how their actions can have consequences, and support them in trying to come to grips with them.

    I’m more pro-regulation, but if you want to keep kids out of high-powered cars, your best bet, at minimum, is to raise the allowed-to-drive-unaccompanied-by-a-fully-licensed-driver age to at least 21 and possibly 25. You’ll note that insurance companies and rental agencies are twitchy about people that age or under regardless of what they drive. There’s a reason—and statistics—for that.

    I’m astounded at the way that we, as a culture, treat adolescents because, quite frankly, it’s a psychologically and physiologically trying time for a human being. We allow them to earn n income, procreate, drive, use a firearm and serve in the military at certain ages, allow them to consume alcohol and/or vote at a different age, and only let them get reasonable insurance and rent a car at a third milestone. That seems somewhat bizarre.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “I don’t know of anybody who has successfully extricated themselves from a dangerous situation by ADDING power.”

    I’m here today because I noticed the car that ran the red light and that would have come through the driver’s door at 55mph because I added power so that he just clipped the rear bumper of the automatic stick shift VW bug I was driving at the time.

    Safety is often a function of the options you have at hand. Anything that limits those options can be very dangerous. That’s why my car and my bike have lots of power, excellent handling and very good brakes.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    I’m not sure that the example you cite in the first paragraph is appropriate of the point you want to make. In digging deeper in this particular case, the child A) did not have permission to drive Daddy’s 911, ever, B) took the car after a fight, and was in an emotionally-charged state (after Daddy was out of sight), C) was also under a doctor’s care for emotional issues.

    As stated above, the car she was in was somewhat incidental. She would have probably wrecked just as spectacularly on that given day had she been driving a Pontiac G6. And be just as dead.

    Case in point: In my community, a recent high school graduate managed to hit not one, but two trees while driving 80 in a 25 mph residential street, killing his friend and maiming two more. In an Explorer. In the wee hours of the morning. While drinking.

    It is judgment, not lack of skill behind the wheel of a performance car that kills most young drivers. (Sure, most have little skill, and a few have access to Daddy’s 911, if he has one, but it’s the decisions kids make that get them into trouble, not their inability to throttle steer or heel-toe shift.)

    I would suggest leaving the age of drivers out of the equation entirely and say this instead…

    ALL drivers (regardless of age, race, creed or color) would be well-served to have certification to be behind the wheel of a performance car.

    Look at wreckedexotics.com.

    Know who these clowns are? Mostly British footballers and dotcom millionaires cracking up Lambos and Ferraris.

    Why?

    They lack understanding of how a performance car works, and what your job is as driver once you take 400+ hp to the edge or control.

    Face it, for the average driver in America, Europe, Australia, etc, the basic vanilla Ford Mustang GT is too much to handle at 7/10ths.

    As is a base Corvette. Or Boxster. WRX STI. etc, etc.

    There’s this sense in many drivers that a performance car, by its very nature, is capable of magic, defeating the laws of physics and making one Michael Shchumacher by merely sitting in the drivers seat.

    And it’s easy to take these cars up to the razor’s edge. But without training, it’s impossible to balance the car there. Things go wrong, quickly.

    Many times, the wrongness is a combination of events that converge into a giant Oh, Shit! moment. Road conditions, other drivers, and your speed all combine in a point in time where you become Jack Baruth, driving your Phaeton full of occupants down the grass divider at three figures.

    Only luck and training will save your bacon at this point. And I don’t care if your 18 or 48.

    So yeah. I’m in complete agreement with you (the age of the driver, notwithstanding)…You want a performance car, then earn some license points by taking Driver Education or other track day courses. Or earn a whole bunch of points at once and attend a driving school, like Barber.

    Not only would this make for more responsible sports car owners, it’d make these drivers safer in any vehicle they choose to drive.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Physics is not taught properly, especially so in the USA.

    A sixteen-year old driving a car, no matter how smart they are, is not thinking about Newtonian physics in the academic sense of the word, especially if they’re pissed off at their parents, pissed dri

    Combine that with outright idiots like a recent current TTAC columnist who believe that somehow technology/mass/strength will save them (screw the other road users) and people die.

    Technology/mass/strength will save you, Jack’s right about that. What he’s also right about is that not driving like he does will also save you and others. He just doesn’t drive like that and, from what I can tell, acknowledges that it’s a selfish thing to do.

  • avatar
    285exp

    There may be a case for graduated licenses, but this wreck porn does nothing for it. Would it have been any different if a graduated license had been system in place? No.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Of all the people I’ve known in my life who died in car accidents… every single one died in high school doing something stupid. At my small high school, seemed like there was an annual fatal car crash.

    This was the case for me, too. And again, many of them had taken driver training courses, and none were particularly powerful or sporty cars. All of them were male, and between sixteen and nineteen. Most involved alcohol.

  • avatar
    zaitcev

    This looks like typical bullshit when they take one case and build new and intrusive legislation on top of it.

    This society took it into a habit to ream young people (drinking age 21 is INSANE), and for a simple reason: they are politically weak. AARP voters twist ropes out of them every time.

  • avatar
    JTParts

    I think right after that 911 incident there was a kid in NY or NJ that got a new hemi charger for graduation and killed a bunch of his friends on an icy road.

    I hate the nanny state, but there are just too many stupid people around.

    I have a 16 year old step daughter who is the most self absorbed person I have ever met. I don’t want her on the road, unfortunately dad is stepping up with the car gift. Thanks.

    Really, no one under should be driving period and those of us over 18 need to go through much more extensive training and licensing protocols.

  • avatar
    JTParts

    OH! also I remember seeing those photos of the 911 accident. Gruesome does not even come close to an adequate description.

  • avatar

    You cannot legislate wisdom, reason, or sanity. The purpose of laws has never been to save people from themselves, only punish those who harm others.

    If people are idiotic and hurt or kill themselves, so be it.

    If they hurt or kill others then prosecute them under the existing laws.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ psarhjinian

    There’s the rub. Let the idiots kill themselves. The depressed young, educationally challenged or older risk takers like Baruth have taken themselves out and ended up on the Darwin Awards.

    What is cause for community concern is those same idiots/risk takers causing the death of a bystander. Absolutely everything should be done or explored to prevent that.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    psarhjinian:

    In this situation is seems that the car had little to do with it, possibly only that the swoopy body panels on a 911 make it difficult to judge distance relative to other cars.

    The age thing seems like a prelude to a George Carlin skit, but there is a basis for it all, for the US you have to remember the tricky relationship between the federal government and the states.

    Earn Income: It really depends on the job and state – there is some logic, some jobs can be done at a young age and some cannot, but the distastefulness of “child” labor usually keeps the minimum age at 15 or 16.

    Procreate: Again, left up to the states. Some states will prosecute a 14 year old that slept with another 14 year old for statutory rape, although there are serious 14th amendment issues there.

    Drive: Again left up to the states. A lot of it goes back to when the US was primarily agrarian.

    Serve in the Army: Hey, we need soldiers, 17 to enlist, 18 to be drafted.

    Vote: If one be drafted at 18 we decided it was only fair to have a Constitutional Amendment to let one vote at 18.

    Drink: This used to be up to the states, and the right of the federal government to interfere in this via the commerce clause is questionable. But with some states setting the age at 18 and some setting it at 21 there was an issue of “blood borders” when people under 21 crossed the border to drink, so the federal government started withholding highway funds from states that set the drinking age below 21.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I assume that the Honda owner survived? I hope so. Not that I don’t feel some sympathy for Nikki and her parents.

    I think that graduated licensing, including setting a maximum speed, is a good idea. However, there are always going to be people with mental problems, addictions, or just plain bad judgement that lead to accidents like this. Here in Ontario they are very tough on drinking and driving, but people still do it.

  • avatar
    rachmiel99

    @Bertel Schmitt This is not a case for power-to-weight graduated driver’s licenses. This is a case for not letting psychotic drug addicts behind the wheel.

    Glad you added background info on the young woman — thanks.

    After reading the Wikipedia info, I do wish you had used different language than the words above. Someone who had a childhood brain tumor that affected her judgement might merit a little more compassion — especially now that she’s dead.

  • avatar
    geeber

    High performance cars allow stupid speeds to be reached in neighborhoods and urban/suburban streets where those speeds could not be achieved in a lesser car.

    Can’t buy that.

    On a residential street, 70 mph is definitely a “stupid” speed, and my Accord (four-cylinder automatic, not the V-6) can hit that. I would have to ignore stop signs, but I seriously doubt that anyone who is driving at those speeds on residential streets, regardless of vehicle, is worrying about stop signs or other traffic-control devices.

    notapreppie: Just because she hit at 70 doesn’t mean she wasn’t hard on the brakes at 200 yards from 150.

    According to Newsweek, she was initially traveling at 100 mph, and then braked before the impact.

    A Town Car or Grand Marquis can easily hit 100 mph, as can an Aveo. Only difference is that the brakes on those vehicles probably wouldn’t be powerful enough to reduce the speed to 70 mph at the time of the impact.

    So banning her from a high-performance car wouldn’t have changed the outcome (even ignoring the fact that she was willing to disobey her parents, so I doubt that a change in the law would have made much difference).

  • avatar
    liechter

    Why is anybody allowed to drive a Porsche on public roads? Why is anybody allowed to drive any vehicle with multiple times the power needed to carry four passengers at the freeway speed limit?

    We need legislation that limits horsepower on public roads to something like 80, and maximum acceleration to around 10 seconds on the 0-60. Around 40,000 American die on the roads every year, and this has got to stop.

    If you want to have a Porsche, take it on the track. Get off the public road.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I always thought there should be graduated license requirements for vehicle size as well.

    Start off on a bicycle license to ride in the street + insurance would be a good start. Anyone over 16 should have a bicycle license + insurance to ride in the street. Under 16 should remain in private property or in parks, or ride with a permit with a licensed bicyclist.

    Once you can master that (in Chicago, most adults CANT master it), you can move up to a 50cc scooter, 125cc 4-stroke, 250cc bike, and then up to an 800cc cruiser and/or sportbike.

    After that, you can start your licensing for a subcompact and move up by government class. (compact midsize, large, suv, whatever…)

    The bigger the vehicle + more power = more chance to kill multiple people.

    I picked arbitrary size classes. Less than what is listed above is probably more practical.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    More government regulation isn’t what’s needed to fix this issue. Some good old fashioned common sense and good parenting would go much further. Say what you want, but if Mr. and Mrs. Catsouras didn’t want their daughter driving the Porsche, then they could have made the keys inaccessible. Obviously they were easily obtained, and all she had to do was grab and dash. Not to mention the fact that she clearly wasn’t worried about the consequences of taking the car without permission in the first place. I would have never taken my dad’s car as a kid for fear that I would get my ass kicked from Dallas to Kalamazoo. I see a lot of kids these days with absolutely no regard for what their parents tell them, and it’s sickening. Teach kids the right way, and be a parent. That would fix about 90% of what’s wrong in our society today.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    You can end up doing 80 or a 100 in a performance car and FEEL like you are doing 55 in a lesser car. Hell, I end up doing 80 in a 3-series on a twisty road and it feels like doing 45 in a normal car. Its easy to lose track of your speed in performance cars.

    True, some people are reckless idiots. However, that doesn’t mean that laws designed to curb that is misplaced or futile. People still murder people, after all, even though its against the law. That doesn’t constitute an argument that murder should be legalized because its impossible to stop all murders, whether such a law would have any impact in this case or not.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The article does not describe the accident accurately at all. She was doing over 100 and trying to pass the Honda, clipped it, and that sent her and the Porsche across the median and head-first against the toll booth building. Does that Honda look like it got “rear ended” at 70? Only a dent.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Yeah, that matches the description of the accident here:

    http://www.barbecuestopper.com/forum/f10/nicole-catsouras-nikki-lost-control-porsche-hits-toll-booth-gory-pictures-1248/

  • avatar
    broken_quanta

    This proposal has the scent of a solution in search of a problem.

    Auto-enthusiast boards are populated by people who overvalue driving skill. I’m sorry, but this is true: driving safely, even at freeway speeds, is not very hard. The evidence of this is overwhelming: the incidence of traffic fatalities per vehicle mile traveled is extremely low (a little over 1 death per 100 million VMT in 2008) and has been falling for many years. See Figure 1 of this (PDF; sorry) NHTSA report.

    And what, really, would be the effect? To estimate it, you’d have to multiply the (number of people killed in crashes) by the (fraction of victims killed by inexperienced drivers) by the (fraction of these crashes that happen in high-PWR cars) by the (fraction of the high-PWR cars that will actually be covered by the law) by the (compliance rate with the new law) to get the (expected lives saved by the new law). The starting number is small, and all the fractions are necessarily <1. At least one of the fractions (the fraction of crashes involving high-PWR cars) is, to judge by the Australian example, <<1.

    All of which is to say that we could expect the outcome of this proposal to be a cumbersome regulatory scheme with negligible safety impacts. What’s not to love?

    In any event, this is all fussing about the margins. You want to reduce traffic fatalities? So do I. It’s easy as 1-2-3:

    1. Get people to wear their seatbelts. 55% of 2008 traffic fatalities were “unrestrained” at the time of the crash.
    2. Get people to stop driving drunk. 32% of 2008 traffic fatalities involved alcohol-impaired drivers.
    3. Get people to drive less. Since 1961, fatalities per 100M VMT have plummeted from ~5 to ~1. That’s fantastic. But safety improvements have been totally eaten up by the increase in VMT, such that the absolute number of deaths was more or less the same in 2008 as in 1961.

    We could get to “graduated licensing” and “awesome driver’s ed”, I guess. But they’ll be way, way down the list.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I would have never taken my dad’s car as a kid for fear that I would get my ass kicked from Dallas to Kalamazoo.

    Not if you had suffered a tramatic brain injury that effected your decision making and impluse control funtion.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    If said this before and I’ll say it again: reducing power to weight will not make a teen driver any safer. My friends and I were just as dangerous in our k-cars and cavaliers as these kids are in porsches and srt chargers. A comprehensive driver education that focuses more than just the rules of the road will make teens a safer driver

  • avatar
    geeber

    The deceased had a brain tumor at a young age, not a traumatic brain injury.

    If her decision-making and impulse-control functions were that impaired, she shouldn’t have been driving in the first place.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    A comprehensive driver education that focuses more than just the rules of the road will make teens a safer driver

    I don’t think it will because, quite frankly, drinking, not paying attention or going integer multiples of the speed limit is not something that any Driver’s Ed course, no matter how good, will ever solve.

    Driver’s Ed might, at best, tell you who has the right of way at a four-way stop, or how to steer when you’re skidding in snow. At best. If you’re the kind of driver who will blow through a four-way or do hand-brake power-slides in the snow, those tidbits aren’t going to keep you and others in your wake out of trouble.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    I agree with the argument that education doesn’t matter. It all depends on the person behind the wheel; if someone is a testosterone crazed moron who wants to do burnouts to impress girls, then he won’t stop just because the driver’s ed teacher tells him not to.

    I drove like an idiot until I got in a huge wreck with my Escort back in April. I didn’t understand how serious driving is and I learned pretty quick with a 3rd gen Ford Explorer hitting me head on at 40 MPH, not knowing what just happened until I was being pulled from the mangled wreck and being layed on a stretcher.

    You can talk to someone and regulate them all you want. But they won’t really learn until they get a nice kick in the head.

  • avatar
    JMII

    That point aside, training of teen/new drivers in vehicle dynamics at or near the limit is mostly non-existent.

    This is the real problem. During my driving test way back in mid 80’s I never went over 30mph, yet got my license and was able to legally drive at 65mph on any highway. But speed itself doesn’t tell the whole story, since at only 30mph, I spun my Mustang in the rain. That one incident taught me more about driving than anything else (RWD+wet=spin). Keep in mind my ride wasn’t a 5.0V8 Mustang, it was crappy, “slow” 6 cylinder version.

    Bottom line is the driving tests requirements in America are a joke. They teach you the rules of the roads and how to park, but you learn nothing about car control. The real key is teaching people how easy it is to LOSE control. Let ‘em go 30mph on a wet track and slam the brakes or quickly turn in an effort to avoid a randomly placed traffic cone. Even with ABS I think most people would be shocked at how long it actually takes to bring the vehicle to a complete (and controlled) stop. If everyone had to go thru such exercises during driving school we would all be better off.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Off-topic I know, but we also really need to legislate to reduce the threat of hyenas:

    http://www.salon.com/comics/boll/2009/07/09/boll/

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    I agree the lack of maturity and judgment have more to do with teenagers’ accidents, but disagree that the type of car is irrelevant. When you’re pushing a low performance vehicle, you’re more likely to sense that the car is nearing its limits, and that danger is approaching. Cars with higher performance evelopes feel more secure at higher speeds, which can instill false confidence in the driver. As we know, the laws of physics still apply, and things go wrong very quickly, and increasingly quickly as speed rises. I can guarantee I would have gotten into more trouble with a Mustang GT than I did with the ’76 Buick Skylark I drove in high school.

    I also disagree that driver training doesn’t matter. If it were done properly, I believe it could help. I attended Skip Barber’s one-day performance driving course, and came away firmly believing that the first half — which covered vehicle dynamics, skid control, and braking technique among other things — should be at the core of drivers’ education.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I would have never taken my dad’s car as a kid for fear that I would get my ass kicked from Dallas to Kalamazoo. I see a lot of kids these days with absolutely no regard for what their parents tell them, and it’s sickening.

    Perhaps not the best forum for this, but it’s not fear of physical response that keeps kids (or anyone) in line. If it did, America would be the safest country in the world because of it.

    What is important, in both parenting and “real life”, is consistent enforcement. People—especially kids—need to know where the boundaries are. The consequences aren’t so much the deterrent as the fact that you’ve been a consistent parent with regards to “law of the house”. The worst kids aren’t necessarily those with indulgent (but consistent) parents, but those with absent or inconsistent ones.

    The same applies to law: inconsistent enforcement of laws (bargaining down, conditions, judgment, media-driven “blitzes”) result in people not really knowing where the line ends. In countries where traffic behaviour is good, we consequently see consistent, unwavering enforcement, not “blitzes” or traffic courts where people can negotiate the fine.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I think the overall mass of the vehicle should also be considered as a danger to others on the road from an inexperienced pilot.

    Agreed. I mean, you need special licenses to drive trucks over a certain size, what’s the problem with adding an intermediate class or two to keep 16-21 year olds out of behemoth SUVs?

    My hometown is spectacularly wealthy (no, not me…there was a middle class too) and when I go back I often see bubbly, blonde cheerleader types (often with 3-4 bubbly, chatty friends aboard) trying to get around in Land Rovers, Lincoln Navigators, and that ilk. I was watching one the other day trying to navigate out of a parking lot (she was preventing me from pulling out of my spot). Between her inexperience and her diminutive size (she couldn’t see anything, not even in front!) it took her 20 minutes to get out a not particularly tight parking spot. An evasive manouver at speed? Forget it…instant rollover.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Given the fact that even V6 powered family sedans can achieve very dangerous and unsafe speeds, I question the effectiveness of such legislation.

    As has been commented on above, lets target the statistically greater causes of road fatalities before turning to knee jerk legislation based on anecdotal news stories.

    Also, having previously live in Australia for 20 years, I would strongly urge any country not to follow its approach to road safety, which is mainly revenue collection based. While not interested in driver education, they will gladly write you a $200 ticket if you are 2 miles over the limit (note that by federal specs, speedometers only need to be accurate to +/- 10%). Police love camping out at straight stretches of road and catching folks exceeding the speed limit while overtaking or just behind signs that reduce the speed limit. And they do it all under the self righteous cause of “it for your own good”.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I also disagree that driver training doesn’t matter. If it were done properly, I believe it could help. I attended Skip Barber’s one-day performance driving course, and came away firmly believing that the first half — which covered vehicle dynamics, skid control, and braking technique among other things — should be at the core of drivers’ education.

    Again, the kind of accidents that those courses prevent tend not to be majority of the truly horrible ones. Skip does not tell you any of the following:
    * Don’t drink
    * Do go the speed limit
    * Do go less than the speed limit in inclement weather.
    * Don’t text/phone/fiddle with the radio/feel up your passenger while driving

    At best, you’ll be taught the benefits of looking ahead and doing things slowly, none of which you’re likely to do if you’re a hormone-addled idiot. At worst, you’ll think your skills will save you and drive the worse because of it.

  • avatar
    jmo

    When you’re pushing a low performance vehicle, you’re more likely to sense that the car is nearing its limits, and that danger is approaching. Cars with higher performance evelopes feel more secure at higher speeds

    I’m not so sure about that. I’d be willing to bet that kids in SUVs have higher death rates than kids in sedans or sports cars. The feeling of invincibility, already prevalent among teens, would tend to be worse in an SUV.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I, like many Libertarians, am of two minds on this:

    OOH, When you put nanny controls in place to prevent idiots from killing themselves you get….more live idiots. We already have too many idiots, time to thin the herd, and letting them reap their Darwinian award is as good a way as any.

    OTOH, the potential collateral damage to your loved ones, or mine, or ourselves, may be too high a societal price to pay for allowing the youth, inexperience and horsepower cocktail to continue to be stirred un-abated.

    The truth about cars is that N-O-B-O-D-Y truly needs more than, say, 250 horsepower. And, as many posters previously point out, and judging from the sampling of drivers viewed during my commute this morning, attaining a certain age doesn’t necessarily correspond with attaining levels of sense and proficiency needed to make us all safer on the highway. How about a NATIONAL law instituting maximun power-to-weight ratio for the manufacturers, with a highly progressive graduated tax for licensing vehicles as they climb the scale toward that maximum? Would also benefit the air quality and oil demand issues, as well, would it not?

    Never pass, though. It makes too much sense.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    A comprehensive driver education that focuses more than just the rules of the road will make teens a safer driver

    The irony here is that it is comments such as this that actually demonstrate that driver’s ed won’t work.

    Driver’s education is a well-researched topic, and those who study it all know that driver’s ed of all sorts is ineffective in reducing accident rates. The data goes further; defensive driving courses can actually make things worse. Read enough studies, and you can see that they are written with the understanding that an educated audience will come to the study with the awareness that education doesn’t work.

    Now, I could post a gazillion links and references and studies to demonstrate this. I could outline quite clearly that this is the case. Yet I know that it won’t matter because the average reader will approach a topic such as this with deeply ingrained prejudices and gut feelings, and therefore will simply not want to believe it.

    This is the same problem with driver training. You can teach people all day long that there are certain things that they should or shouldn’t do, but they will not listen, regardless of the relevance or accuracy of the material.

    Most people believe that they are above average behind the wheel, even though it is impossible for most people to be above average; by definition, most people are average. They assume that they know more than the other guy and are therefore exceptions to the rule.

    Driving on the street is a simple task. It is largely a social skill, not a technical one. Good street driving is not measured by clipping apexes or skidpad training, but by avoiding collisions or behaviors that tend to piss off other people or take them by surprise.

    The best accident avoidance maneuver does not come from some sort of fancy footwork, but from avoiding stupidity so that the likelihood of losing it is reduced. There was no training in the world that would have kept the girl described in the article from avoiding the wreck, and course training may have even given her greater confidence in her ability to push the stupidity envelope.

  • avatar
    broken_quanta

    JMII:

    If everyone had to go thru such exercises during driving school we would all be better off.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but this is just maddening. Where is the acknowledgment that such intensive driver’s training would cost money? And that, as applied to the entire driving population, it would cost a lot of money?

    This isn’t money-grubbing. Resources are finite. Spending a ton of money on advanced driver’s ed means not spending that money on something else that may have a greater safety impact. Say you make new drivers pay for this training, and in response they have to buy older cars with fewer safety features. Can you say with confidence that this better-trained driver in a less-safe vehicle will be, on balance, more safe than a lesser-trained driver in a safer vehicle? Of course not.

    When you propose a sweeping, expensive change to the way we do things, you’ve got to grapple with these tradeoffs.

  • avatar

    @psarhjinian:
    Skip does not tell you any of the following:

    Depends on who you get as an instructor.

    Meet Bob Green, one of the teachers at Lime rock last year when I took the 1-day driving/racing combo.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    There’s one simple way to fix teen fatalities behind the wheel….raise the driving age. I’d suggest 21 (and lower the drinking age to 18). There is no reason any 16 year old should be driving, period, end of story. Kids that age just are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of driving, which their motor vehicle fatality rate shows.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    @no_slushbox:

    No, it’s not a parental control issue. With your line of logic we could have parents let their 12 year olds drive if the parents thought it was appropriate.

    I was referring to the vehicle the young driver is permitted to use, not the state-mandated age limitations. Setting horsepower-to-weight ratios vs. age is ridiculous. If we do it for 16-year-olds, then we’ll start setting such standards for 80-year-olds.

    Also, did you get your Fiesta up to 100 mph on a conrolled access freeway or rural road, or in a residential neighborhood or between stoplights in an urban or suburban setting? It makes a big difference.

    It makes no difference; I could have hurt myself or others just as easily in either place. But to answer the question, top speed occurred on the freeway, but 75 mph occurred in 25 mph zones. Which is more dangerous?

    I didn’t need a sports car to get into trouble.

    Incidentally, my accident rate went down when I started funding my own vehicles.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Boff:
    Yeah teens are not going to start driving like grannies en masse, and no system will prevent all tragedies from occurring, but I would be pretty surprised if, for example, a day at skid control school didn’t wake at least some of them up to how quickly things can go pear-shaped.

    +1. I’d also add in some visual scanning and memory drills.
    Such training would be wasted on many. But smarter, emotionally stable teens with lower testosterone levels would benefit.

    Although Church of All-Teen-Training-Is-Worthless high-priests will urge me to save my money, I’ll spend on proper driver training for my nieces and nephews when (and if) they’re ready.

    Pch101:
    There was no training in the world that would have kept the girl described in the article from avoiding the wreck, and course training may have even given her greater confidence in her ability to push the stupidity envelope.

    You cannot save everyone – and in this case Darwinian laws apply.

    Additional training can save some teens – even if it’s just supervised time behind the wheel followed by short discussion and/or criticism.

    My point: The premise that any driver skill training will turn all teens into crazed Baruthian speed freaks is false.

  • avatar
    zaitcev

    The nonsensual nature of driver training and graduated licenses argument is highlighted by a crash from my Aftermath collection. A guy who was about to take his ATP checkride the next day took his 4 friends for a ride in a twin; caged one engine; turned INTO the caged engine, spun and killed everyone including himself. Once again, we talk about would-be ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) here, the highest attainable rating that FAA awards. His skills should’ve been honed up for the upcoming checkride. And yet… And people are talking about driver training and graduated licenses. Is there a way to measure JUDGEMENT?

  • avatar
    jmo

    ihatetrees,

    I’m fairly certain that Pch101 has provided enough evidence that driver training just doesn’t work. For every kid that learns something and is able to get out of a tough situation, you’ll have 5 kids who become overconfident and as a result take excessive risks.

    The only way to know for sure would be to take 1000 16yo kids with cars, attach a hidden GPS monitor, and send 500 to class and do nothing for the other 500. I’m willing to bet you would find the kids who went to the class drove faster and more recklessly than those who didn’t take the class.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    The problem here is that changing the law to limit what a teen can drive legally does nothing to stop them from driving illegally. A key point in the Catsouras case is that she took a car she was not permitted to drive. A more recent, non-fatal, and funnier example is http://jalopnik.com/5310351/teen-ramps-tahoe-in-high+speed-police-chase where a couple of 14 year olds grabbed mom’s Tahoe and got into a high speed chase.
    Sure the occasional spoiled brat won’t get an M3 but most teens drive, and have accidents in lower powered cars that would be legal anyway

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    Yes I believe in low-powered POS cars for teenagers, but then I’m biased, my first car was an 1982 Chevrolet Celebrity with the Iron “Puke” 4 cyl engine.

    Having said that I managed to top it out at 85 mph and get the car airborne at the top of a rolling hill in NW Ohio. It actually flew quite well and landed quite nicely.

    It was a popular pastime among teenage drivers in southern NH to “get some air” off a pair of steep hills along an otherwise flat country road. My friend had a mid-90s Geo Metro (with the optional four, mind you) that was able to execute this mission quite successfully. To boot, landings were smoother than I’ve experienced aboard most commercial aircraft flights.

    When I later attempted the feat at the wheel of a friend’s Passat 1.8T, however, we came in a bit “hot” (shall we say) and the vehicle sustained extensive damage to its undercarriage (including the complete loss of all engine oil due to a large gash that had been ripped in the oil pan). Fortunately, the repairs were covered by insurance under the excuse that we’d “hit a rock” lying in the middle of road.

    The moral of the story? Teenage drivers will get into all sorts of stupid trouble regardless of the car they’re driving.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Read enough studies, and you can see that they are written with the understanding that an educated audience will come to the study with the awareness that education doesn’t work.

    I thought we went through this once already. Even the meta-studies you linked identified some that work and many that don’t.

    While it’s true that driving practices are not a matter of “education” (ie curing ignorance of something like methodology), they are a matter of behavioral conditioning.

    If you want to argue that behavioral conditioning is impossible, try to focus on that and the perhaps the impractically of it instead of some generic view that all hope is lost for the youths of this country.


    On this specific topic, it does make sense to identify the worst drivers in general and at least limit the amount of harm they can cause.

  • avatar
    teendrivingblog

    I don’t think it is fair to use Nikki as the poster child of why teens shouldn’t drive high power cars. She wasn’t supposed to be driving that car. It wasn’t hers and she took it without permission. That same situation could happen if we had restrictions on hp for new drivers.

    A better example is Parees Ghassemian, 18, who was racing his BMW M3 against his friend’s Mercedes when he “lost control” and crashed, killing himself and a passenger. He was going so fast that after hitting a wall on the right side of the road the car rotated and landed on its roof in the center of the road.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    So banning her from a high-performance car wouldn’t have changed the outcome (even ignoring the fact that she was willing to disobey her parents, so I doubt that a change in the law would have made much difference).

    It’s perfectly fine to make laws based on probabilities. Fast cars encourage bad behavior in people predisposed to such, as well as make it much more easily accessible.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    psarhjinian:
    Again, the kind of accidents that those courses prevent tend not to be majority of the truly horrible ones. Skip does not tell you any of the following:
    * Don’t drink
    * Do go the speed limit
    * Do go less than the speed limit in inclement weather.
    * Don’t text/phone/fiddle with the radio/feel up your passenger while driving

    At best, you’ll be taught the benefits of looking ahead and doing things slowly, none of which you’re likely to do if you’re a hormone-addled idiot. At worst, you’ll think your skills will save you and drive the worse because of it.

    Actually, Skip does talk about those things, especially within the confines of their New Driver Program and the regular driving schools they offer. The safety message is covered in the High Performance Driving Schools to a certain degree, but it is a different audience.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    @Pch101:

    When the topic of drving training came up before, there were links posted to various studies. I read through them as much as time would allow, and while I agree that you are stating what their conclusions are I didn’t see the actual data in the studies describing specifically what the driver training was. Just that driver training did not have an effect on accident rates. It was probably in there but I have a job and a life and didn’t have time to read something that long and dry.

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    The solution to this problem like all others is very simple. Education and training.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The solution to this problem like all others is very simple. Education and training.

    No, the solution is to make it very hard for people with bad judgment to get behind the wheel of a car. These kinds of accidents are not because of skill deficits; they’re judgment deficits.

    This would be akin to proposing people go to law school in order to avoid committing crimes.

  • avatar
    geeber

    agenthex: It’s perfectly fine to make laws based on probabilities. Fast cars encourage bad behavior in people predisposed to such, as well as make it much more easily accessible.

    Whether it’s “perfectly fine” and “good public policy,” or even “effective,” are all entirely different things.

    There is no proof that this is a major problem, let alone one worthy of legislative attention.

    If we are truly concerned about newly minted drivers, a better approach is to place more restrictions on them, particularly until they reach 18 (or just raise the driving to 18), regardless of the vehicle they may drive.

    Newly minted drivers are killing themselves in basic Cobalts, Civics, S-10s/Colorados, Rangers and Accents in far greater numbers. (If a base-level Cobalt is a high-powered vehicle, that is news to me.)

    This story made the news precisely BECAUSE it is an anomaly. Attempting to write laws based on this case is like drawing up automotive safety standards based on the possibility that airplanes may fall from the sky and land on a vehicle. It has happened…but how often?

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    Why stop with only banning people with bad judgment not to drive. Maybe we should just sterilize people with bad judgment. Isolate them from the rest of society? Everyone wants to pretend bad things dont happen but they do, and people grow by learning and experience. It works like this a killer is a killer whether they use a gun, baseball ball, pencil, etc etc. It seems in this society all we can think of is how to punish instead of asking how can we help people make it to the next level.

  • avatar
    claudster

    My 2007 Mazda 3 GT, may only have 160 hp, but it is rock solid at 170 KPH, and really is a zoom-zoom car.
    My first car was a 1976 Buick Skylark coup with a 4.3L V8. Buick was fairly fast, but handled like a pig and would be very hard to control over 125 KPH, plus the road noise tire squealing made me feel like I was going much faster.
    The scary part is that most modern cars have high limits, which causes teenagers to push them much harder than I ever pushed my Buick, which leads to the same tragic results.

  • avatar
    A is A

    Parents should treat the car keys as carefully as a loaded gun. Dad hopefully wouldn’t have left a loaded Glock sitting on the kitchen table, eh?

    You are 100% right.

    Cars are as dangerous as guns.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Maybe we should just sterilize people with bad judgment.

    Sounds like a plan to me – put that in your platform and I’ll vote for you.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Newly minted drivers are killing themselves in basic Cobalts, Civics, S-10s/Colorados, Rangers and Accents in far greater numbers. (If a base-level Cobalt is a high-powered vehicle, that is news to me.)

    So? Is there a rule that every law must solve every instance of a problem?

    If teens in general are much more dangerous, that may be worthy of additional regulation. If teens in fast cars are even more dangerous, you get the drift?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Why stop with only banning people with bad judgment not to drive. Maybe we should just sterilize people with bad judgment.

    This is why “black and white”, reductio ad absurdum is bad for debate. Your first case falls within this tolerable levels of control in a society where we have balance the ultimate freedom of the individual against the good of society as a whole.

    The second crosses that line.

    If we didn’t stop people with potentially bad judgement from doing some things, we might as well repeal traffic laws entirely and live The Road Warrior.

    It seems in this society all we can think of is how to punish instead of asking how can we help people make it to the next level.

    There’s a distinction between control as punishment and control as a preventative. Some people (eg, eight year olds) should probably not drive. Are punishing them by not allowing them to do so?

  • avatar

    Something like ~Finland’s driver training would be good.

    Agreed on the scarlet letter + low power for kids, and the rolloff for oldies.

    *Minimum Braking Power should be government mandated.

    Mv inspection standards should be made much higher than they are now.

    Ex: Mandatory amt. of tread on your tires; if you don’t have it, you fail.

    I was dangerous at 18 with a car under 100hp.
    It may have been much worse if had 3x that amount.

    Any system implemented is likely to be imperfect, but if it brings the fatality rate down viz. cost, then that’s what matters.


    +I hear what @Mark MacInnis is saying and if the government could get us all out of cars and into little pubtrans cocoons, then NONE of us would die in car accidents.
    -And wouldn’t that be FUN?!!

    I guess Darwin should still be handing out awards.

    (…hrm, if we could chloroform Baruth and stick him in a giant cannolli it would be fun; -but moving on…)


    ++Graduated pwr licensing will never work as it would dampen us auto sales, and some very big companies would lobby the S*&@ out of the congresscritters…

  • avatar
    geeber

    agenthex: So? Is there a rule that every law must solve every instance of a problem?

    Laws designed to address a problem should actually reduce its occurrence.

    Despite the article, 99 percent of teens do not have access to Porsches – or even Corvettes.

    They have access to far more mundane cars. Please note that the young lady in the article could have done the exact same thing (drive 100 mph; sideswipe a hapless Civic; slam into tollbooth at 70 mph; kill herself in gruesome fashion) in a Cobalt or a Town Car.

    The fact that she was driving a high-powered Porsche makes for good copy, but is really irrelevant to the larger issue of preventing teen vehicle fatalities.

    If you want to save teen lives, and prevent them from taking out innocents as well, then the better approach is to restrict all teen drivers, instead of worrying about the type of car they may drive.

    This approach has worked in Pennsylvania. In the early 2000s, Pennsylvania saw an immediate decline in fatalities among 16-year-old drivers when restrictions were placed on their licenses.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    I hope that this incident took Nikki out of the gene pool for good?

    updated: Ah, okay, I saw the note that Ms. Catsouras killed herself in this incident. My sympathies to the family, and hat-tip to Mr. Darwin. Hope the occupants of the other car are okay.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Laws designed to address a problem should actually reduce its occurrence.

    You should try to avoid dodging the point and stop repeating yourself.

    Teens certainly do have access to cars like an SI or WRX or mustang, thus their astronomical insurance at the hands of the youths.

    That fast cars are much more conducive to being driven fast matters. There’s a reason why fast and furious is not and cannot be made with stock corollas.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    If teens in general are much more dangerous, that may be worthy of additional regulation. If teens in fast cars are even more dangerous, you get the drift?

    I think the point is that “teens in fast cars” is a specific solution what really is a general problem. Legislating teens out of high-power cars is a disingenuous step, one that targets a high-profile, but not high-frequency part of the problem.

    The problem is teens in cars, period. If you really want to solve the problem, you’re looking either a technical constraint like biometric ignitions, or a social constraint, like requiring a licensed driver with more than X years experience to accompany the inexperienced driver as a kind of “angel on their shoulder”. Just keeping them out of fast car isn’t going to cut down on the problem appreciably, and will, at worst, distract from taking action on the core issue.

    It’s like having laws against cell phone, text and/or BlackBerry use while driving on top of “distracted driving” laws. You’re creating needless complexity for the sake of addressing a “sexy” problem.

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    If we didn’t stop people with potentially bad judgement from doing some things, we might as well repeal traffic laws entirely and live The Road Warrior.

    Drugs are illegal and are punishable under the law and yet it seems everyone seems to think weed is ok. I have never done drugs not because of the law but because I consider myself an educated person and I am not interested in the “high”. Laws and simple punishment dont work. You (try)stop bad behavior by teaching and educating. Period. Keep working on ways to punish and let me know how it works for you. I notice in this country we are building bigger prisons and yet cry if we have to build a school.

  • avatar
    geeber

    agenthex: You should try to avoid dodging the point and stop repeating yourself.

    I’ve addressed the point; I just reject your solution, because I favor one that works. (And you keep dodging the point that she could have done the exact same thing in a Civic or Town Car.) The proper response is to place restrictions on all teen drivers.

    The overwhelming majority of them do not have access to high-performance cars, but among those who do have fatal accidents, they have them in mundane vehicles. Singling out a particular type of car is a waste of time and effort.

    agenthex: Teens certainly do have access to cars like an SI or WRX or mustang, thus their astronomical insurance at the hands of the youths.

    Most of those Mustangs are the V-6 models (precisely because insurance is so expensive for the GT and Shelby models). The Subaru Si and WRX are not being bought by 16-year-olds.

    agenthehex: That fast cars are much more conducive to being driven fast matters.

    I guess you’ve never felt the performance of a post-2002 V-6 Accord sedan. It’s pretty darn fast by virtually any standard.

    Are we going to ban teens from driving the family sedan now, too?

    agenthex: There’s a reason why fast and furious is not and cannot be made with stock corollas.

    It features modified cars…which any teenager with enough money and time can create for themselves. Are we now going to tell teens that that they cannot modify their own cars?

    Plus, Mr. Walker and Mr. Diesel wouldn’t look too good in a rental-car white Corolla while they chase down the bad guys.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    The problem is teens in cars, period.

    No, the problem is in bad drivers. There are plenty of reasonably responsible young drivers, because the “disproportion” is still in the lower digits.

    Any kind of blanket-ish solution is going to penalize the innocent, and hopefully that would be a consideration for any law. In general, I would tend to compromise towards solutions that encourage good behavior (like owning cars that best serve leisurely driving), rather than forcing the majority to cater to the lowest common denominator minority.

    Also, in the grand scheme of things, I’d much prefer law enforcement to just do their job of policing dangerous behavior (include slow driving and poor merging) rather than focus on revenue collection for legal technicalities.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    I’ve addressed the point; I just reject your solution, because I favor one that works.

    You apparently didn’t understand that they’re not mutually exclusive solutions.

    (And you keep dodging the point that she could have done the exact same thing in a Civic or Town Car.)

    No I didn’t. You must’ve missed the part where I said they’re much more dangerous in cars optimized for reckless driving. I’m well aware of the speeds plebeian cars are capable of.

    The Subaru Si and WRX are not being bought by 16-year-olds.

    No they’re being bought by their parents, and by 20 year olds who’ve saved up some cash. What’s the point of this strawman anyway?

    Are we now going to tell teens that that they cannot modify their own cars?

    Why not? What’s the point of laws anyway?

  • avatar

    I think teenaged drivers should all be given Bugatti Veyrons !

  • avatar

    I just saw the pictures of gore from Nikki Catsouras’ crash.

    http://www.barbecuestopper.com/forum/f10/nicole-catsouras-nikki-lost-control-porsche-hits-toll-booth-gory-pictures-1248/

    From now on, my S550 isn’t going faster than 55 miles per hour. I don’t need my head exploding.

  • avatar

    The simple fact of the matter is, America is a knee-jerk reactionary country and I’ve noticed that only when enough teenaged, suburban middle class kids die – does the government bother to do anything.

    70MPH can be reached by any car. Some do it faster than others but the fact of the matter is driving illegaly can’t be stopped unless you fit vehicles with devices that prevent cars from being driven illegaly. And even then, these things aren’t fool proof.

    I liked Ford’s idea to have special keys for parents to give their children which limit the speed of the car – but even at a reasonable 35 MPH, a crash that busts your head open and kills you…

    (http://www.barbecuestopper.com/forum/f10/nicole-catsouras-nikki-lost-control-porsche-hits-toll-booth-gory-pictures-1248/

    is still possible.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    @Flashpoint: Holy cow; rough pics.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The muscle car era peaked in 1968, with the 383 hp (pre-emissions) Plymouth Roadrunner–the limbo bar set at an all time low for affordability.

    IIRC, the Roadrunner’s base motor was a 383CI V8 that was rated at 335 hp.

    In my view, I’d say that the Nova SS was the pinnacle of low-buck insanity during the muscle car era.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian :
    The solution to this problem like all others is very simple. Education and training.

    >>>No, the solution is to make it very hard for people with bad judgment to get behind the wheel of a car. These kinds of accidents are not because of skill deficits; they’re judgment deficits.
    >>>This would be akin to proposing people go to law school in order to avoid committing crimes.

    This last sentence deserves a prize for absolutely superb metaphor.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian :
    The solution to this problem like all others is very simple. Education and training.

    >>>No, the solution is to make it very hard for people with bad judgment to get behind the wheel of a car. These kinds of accidents are not because of skill deficits; they’re judgment deficits.
    >>>This would be akin to proposing people go to law school in order to avoid committing crimes.

    This last sentence deserves a prize for absolutely superb metaphor.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    jmo:
    I’m fairly certain that Pch101 has provided enough evidence that driver training just doesn’t work. For every kid that learns something and is able to get out of a tough situation, you’ll have 5 kids who become overconfident and as a result take excessive risks.

    True & true.
    I contend that it isn’t that tough to identify the 20 to 30 percent of responsible kids and give them the information/training. Some teens can handle calculus at 17, some can handle firearms, some should be able to handle a driving skills course.

    Of course, doing so violates the 11th Commandment of today’s educrats, “Thou Shalt Not Judge”.
    Resistance can be fierce.

    In the end, this is all just window dressing. The elephant in the living room is joke-grade enforcement of traffic laws. Until the legions of adults who ‘drive’ without licenses or chronicaly fender-bender without sanction are dealt with, any improvement in overall safety will be minimal.

  • avatar
    geeber

    agenthex: You apparently didn’t understand that they’re not mutually exclusive solutions.

    Mine, however, is the far superior approach that has been proven to work.

    agenthex: No I didn’t. You must’ve missed the part where I said they’re much more dangerous in cars optimized for reckless driving. I’m well aware of the speeds plebeian cars are capable of.

    These cars are optimized for high-speed driving. “High speed driving” is not synonomous with “reckless.”

    agenthex: No they’re being bought by their parents, and by 20 year olds who’ve saved up some cash. What’s the point of this strawman anyway?

    You brought them up, I didn’t.

    agenthex: Why not? What’s the point of laws anyway?

    Because laws of this sort should save lives, not just make the professional busybodies and do-gooders feel good because they have “done something” in reaction to a high-profile accident that has little, if any, bearing on the real problem.

  • avatar
    llcarlos

    I finally erased those pictures from my HD.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    Laws aimed at blaming the equipment instead of the knucklehead using it won’t work. The problem is not “overpowered” cars. The problem is that kids are stupid and that our driver’s licensing system is too easy.

    Driver’s Ed classes are a joke. The road test is even worse. I realize that it’s not practical for every city or county in the country to have a dedicated closed test loop that would allow the licensee to demonstrate their ability to perform a panic stop or emergency lane change manuever. However, most road tests performed on city streets are geared towards having the licensee perform low speed, precision manuevers that take a certain amount of skill, but no quick decision making or reflex actions. In most places, if you can effectively parallel park, you can pass the road test. Of course, in most places in this country, one never need parallel park ever again if you don’t want to. I know my wife hasn’t parallel parked since she got her license.

    A blanket ban on allowing new drivers to drive some Federal government pinhead’s definition of “high performance personal mobility devices” will be impossible for police officers to enforce in a proactive manner. “I wonder if the person driving that new Camaro is 16 or 21? Also, is that Camaro a V-8 that they would be prohibited to drive if they are under 21 or a V-6 that would be okay for them to drive? Screw it, I’m going to Dunkin’ Donuts!” would be this veteran police officer’s point of view.*

    Instead we would be forced to treat these as secondary offenses after making a stop for something else or when reacting after the fact when the kid wrapped the Camaro around a telephone poll, in which case it’s too late.

    It’s also just a hop, skip, and a jump from saying “Kids shouldn’t be allowed to drive high performance cars,” to saying “No one should be allowed to drive a high performance car.” This slip becomes especially slippery for Federal government pinheads when the first attempt to prohibit kids from driving these kind of cars fails to reach whatever target reduction in annual automotive carnage by teen drivers that they wanted.

    In my career I’ve seen kids wreck everything from Firebird Trans- Ams to Hyundai crapboxes that didn’t have enough power to get out of their own way. As with firearms and all sorts of other potentially dangerous tools, it’s not the inanimate object’s fault. It’s the failure of the operator.

    *As a gearhead, I personally could tell a V-6 Camaro from a V-8 Camaro easily. Most of my fellow officers aren’t gearheads.

  • avatar
    Fritz

    The police are usually pretty good about these things. They do stuff like pop their hoods to shield people from seeing a body. I appreciate it. I’ve got enough miles on me that I’ve seen it done several times.

    When I was a kid, one of my friends had a hot 67 mustang. His parents were thoughtful enough to install racing grade restraint systems for the driver and passenger. You were reminded every time you strapped in that driving was serious. I don’t know that he ever was involved in an accident. A lap belt, the usual thing in those days, seemed to laugh at the possibilities.

    Having said that, I have owned cars that never had belts.

  • avatar
    Spitfire

    I think this makes a ton of sense. I always considered myself lucky to have driven go-karts, dirt bikes of a dozen variety, 4 wheelers, and even flew a Cessna 172 before I had a learners permit. Never mind what riding and racing my mountain bike taught me. Ever after all that as soon as I had unsupervised access to my dads SC400 it was floored endlessly. I’d like to think that some skill but more likely a healthy dose of dumb luck has kept me around even with my own version of a graduated license.

    All in favor of it since it cant hurt.

    On another note I have seen those pictures of the accident, horrible…really really awful stuff

  • avatar
    dugiv

    As an 18 year old driver I can totally agree with only allowing high powered vehicles of those who are capable. When I turned 16 i got the family sled Taurus. At 18 after 30,000 on the road I moved up to a crown victoria. Now i can tell you that the crown vic wouldve been a bad move at the age of 16. I am all for multiple skill levels of licenses.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Mine, however, is the far superior approach that has been proven to work.

    Banning all driving also works in the same fashion. Also, you fail to recognize what mutually exclusive means for the second time.

    These cars are optimized for high-speed driving. “High speed driving” is not synonomous with “reckless.”

    The kind of driving high performance cars are optimized for and feel best doing are very much reckless on the street.

    You brought them up, I didn’t.

    No, you brought up specifically that 16year olds don’t buy performance cars. I notice that you don’t seem to deny that performance vehicles changes driving habits of youths.

    Because laws of this sort should save lives, not just make the professional busybodies and do-gooders feel good because they have “done something” in reaction to a high-profile accident that has little, if any, bearing on the real problem.

    To the contrary, it’s beneficial to have laws that are effective at targeting causes of poor behavior without being unnecessarily restrictive of normative behavior. “Driving while young” laws fail in that regard.

    Introducing more strawmen as if anyone specifically wants licenses graduated on vehicle type because of the aforementioned anecdote is pretty intellectually dishonest.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    It never fails to amaze me – people who’ll gripe at any and all regulations will favor something as silly and unworkable as graduated power/weight ratio licensing.

    What does finding the brake pedal have to do with power to weight ratios? What car can’t go 70?

    How about this for a law – people who have teens living at home can’t own a Porsche.

  • avatar
    escapenguin

    The pictures are horrific. Some random visitor posted all of them in high-res on my forum one day and I was literally dry-heaving.

    I agree that we should use tiered licensing in the US, but that won’t be enough. Kids will be kids no matter what. I know that I myself did some crazy, reckless stunts with my first car. I was young and stupid and thought I was invincible, but the only real reason for that is: I was just never this unlucky.

  • avatar
    EdCat9

    You know, I have been reading thru all the many arguments and counter arguments this issue has razed and I’m struck by by how many–otherwise red-blooded freedom loving Americans, are stuck on stateist-stupid. There is a simple American style solution that would have pozatively prevented this tragedy, and many others. Outlaw toll booths from high-speed expressways!

  • avatar
    JonnyZX

    “The issue is pretty easy to understand: should young, inexperience motorists be allowed to drive high-powered cars? ”

    Should government be allowed to create more laws, more regulations, more punitive fines, taxation, useless paperwork, more bureaucracy, more underpaid overworked bureaucrat pencil pushers in government owned cubicles at the DMV …. all just to keep us “safer”.

    The answer by now, considering our ridiculous state of government affairs in this country, now that we are all being nannied to death by Big Brother, should a resounding NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    “The state of Victoria, for example, has instituted a power-to-weight related graduated license program for young drivers.”

    No it hasn’t, quite the opposite in fact. Victoria previously had a power-to-weight based system and have gone away from it to one based on proscribed technologies (V8s, Turbos and Supercharged and ‘Modifieds’) as well as specifically banned vehicles. This has led to serious anomolies which now bans some very safe cars and allows some quite quick ones.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Dynamic88>

    I think my 25-yo brother-in-laws car has trouble getting to 70. He lives in a very hilly city (Sao Jose Dos Campos, SP, Brazil) and has a 1.3L late 1960’s or early 1970’s vw beetle. HP = 45…? I’m guessing…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Japan has a three stage license requirement for motorcyclists as well. Traffic tickets, accidents and other offenses get you stuck at a lower level or license revoked. They also have mandatory schools.

    I don;t think a standard drivers license should get you the keys to a 500 hp sports car. But that would mean more agencies and red tape so it’s not going to happen. The small number of cases where a novice wreaks a sports car day one don’t justify the added burden. There are other ways to do it.

    Like how about limiting a car’s horsepower or top speed electronically?

  • avatar

    Pch101 –

    I’d be very interested to see those studies. When I read of rollovers in SUV’s, it’s apparent that many of these occurred when someone put the vehicle into a maneuver that it was incapable of doing without rolling over. It took me years to get my wife to understand that simple tire inflation is a primary automotive safety factor.

    Having education does not mean that we survive doing stupid things, but there are living veterans of squirrel-suit flying, bunjee jumping, mountain climbing, automobile racing and most of these did not start off at the peak of the activity. It is difficult to imagine that learning the skill will not contribute to one’s ability to avoid and/or survive an accident.

    On the point of horsepower available to drivers, I feel I am a reasonably skilled driver with more than 40 years of driving and many hours on a track in a wide variety of vehicles. I also realize that the 300 hp in my 335, and even the 100 hp in my VFR800 makes both vehicles much faster than I am. The primary way that this humility was reached was by experimentation on a race track; it didn’t take very long to understand that I ran out of talent long before the vehicle ran out of its ability to deliver more speed. And, to be honest, I had more fun pushing a 185 hp 325 around a track than I do with the 335, probably because I am much closer to my combination of skill and speed in a car or bike with less power.

    As others have said, none of this may have made a real difference to a hormonal teen who was pissed off at dad. Surely there are less extreme cases where having less horsepower would reduce the level of injuries.

    As one who started driving cars in a 51 hp Renault, and motorcycles with an 80 cc ride, I’m quite sure that having less power helped me to avoid more than one accident.

    OTOH, the majority of the problems we’re facing today are the result of just too many people. Maybe we should eliminate any driver training and safety systems from automobiles. The strong will still survive…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It is difficult to imagine that learning the skill will not contribute to one’s ability to avoid and/or survive an accident.

    The accident data indicates that skill has little or nothing to do with anything. That’s why people need to read the research — they need to lose these prejudices that lead to erroneous, inaccurate conclusions.

    Accident avoidance should be proactive, not reactive. Instead of believing that they can dance their way out of pending wrecks, people need to chill out behind the wheel so that they don’t put themselves in a position where drastic maneuvers are necessary in the first place. Unfortunately, training tends to instill the hubris that makes people wreck, as they come to believe that training will save them, when they should be proactively avoiding risk.

    Street driving and track driving are not the same thing, just as walking down a city sidewalk is not the same thing as running in a track-and-field event. On the street, success is measured by the ability to avoid colliding with others, not by being the fastest, most hip and cool thing on the highway.

  • avatar
    Flipper

    Can it work backwards also. My dad was killed by a 82 year old motorist driving a De ville . How about post 70 you cant Drive anything big or powerful also. We know as a group they also would have an easier time with smaller less powerful cars with good sightlines.When I see elderly people having hard times parking I want to tell them get a smaller car with a tighter turning radius . . that car it now to big for you to judge!


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