Examples of combination of factors causing accidents for teen driver?
May 29, 2015 3:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to explain why him driving his friends from the Bay Area to Tahoe is a bad idea.

He's only 15 1/2, so learning to drive with me and won't be able to drive friends until he's 17, so this isn't imminent. I'm trying to make the point that it's not one of these risks alone, but the combination that's a problem: distractions from friends, unseasoned driver, possible weather, twisty road and fatigue if they make it a day trip.

I thought this was called Combination of Adverse Factors in aviation risk management, and failure/accident analysis, but while I find some of those words in coverage of things like the Air France 447 crash (frozen pitot tube, human factors around the side stick and stall warning and a few other problems), but not COAF specifically.

Telstar Logistics coverage of the Cosco Busan Debacle quotes John Konrad:
An incident might occur because the helmsmen failed to take a required training course a year back or due to a improperly installed antenna 6 years back or a policy decision 15 years previous. Most likely it was caused by all of the above and 100 additional errors that combine to form what marine incident investigators call an error chain.
So I do find chain of events and error chain, but this term suggests kind of a domino effect when COAF suggests (to me) some unrelated and not sequential problems combining in an unforseen/unforseeable way.

I've also tried to teach him about checklists after reading Atul Gawande's article about their use in medicine "this new plane was too complicated to be left to the memory of any pilot, however expert."
posted by morganw to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Swiss cheese model might be up your alley.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:02 PM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and this is one that was linked from here sometime not-too-long-ago:

The Rule of Three: Situation Awareness in Hazardous Situations [PDF]
by P.T.W. Hudson, SPE (Leiden University), G.C. van der Graaf, & Bryden R. (Shell International Exploration and Production B.V.)

The criteria for making Go - No Go decisions are often conservative because the decision rule (i.e. to stop flying helicopters, to go around with a tanker, to shut down a platform or halt concurrent operations) does not take the interaction of multiple factors into account. All of the situations and events leading to an incident are sub-standard, but taken in isolation none of them usually appear dangerous enough to warrant halting operations and taking stock. Accidents rarely happen because of a single catastrophic failure, except when that failure is at the end of a chain of non-catastrophic failures and organisational oversights. Go - No Go decisions are hard to make, especially when situations have been deteriorating slowly, and a clear decision rule can help. The Rule of Three is proposed as a way of combining information to make operational decisions in order to maximize opertunities and minimize regrets.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:11 PM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am not sure that there is a rational, logic-based argument that will work outside of "you are not experienced enough." You become trustworthy to do something when you do it a lot, repeatedly. At 17, he will simply not be that experienced.
posted by deanc at 4:25 PM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

The way my father explained it to me was that you spend the first couple of years of driving getting better at avoiding your own stupidity, and the next several decades getting better at avoiding everyone else's stupidity.
posted by Etrigan at 4:48 PM on May 29, 2015 [34 favorites]

The way my parents explained such things to me was "We're not worried about you. We're worried about everyone else."

Where by "everyone else" they probably meant such factors as: distractions from friends, unseasoned driver, possible weather, twisty road and fatigue if a day trip.
posted by aniola at 5:22 PM on May 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

I just read this Metafilter post about a fatal Cirque du Soleil accident.
From the article: [The] tragedy in Las Vegas was what analysts call a “system accident.” A system accident is one that requires many things to go wrong in a cascade. Change any element of the cascade and the accident may well not occur, but every element shares the blame. (The quote says "cascade," but it is clear in the article that it was not really a chain of events, just a lot of things going wrong at once.)
posted by hiker U. at 5:53 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't really need to convince him you're right. You only need to convince him that he can't talk you out of it, and an appeal to the stats on young drivers is probably sufficient for that. No matter what you do, he's going to try to argue you out of it. (spoken by someone who Did Not Go To Woodstock when he was 16 because Are You Out of Your Mind?)
posted by mr vino at 5:56 PM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

FWIW, I would let a 17 year old driver (with 1.5 years behind the wheel) drive to North Tahoe, during daylight in the spring/summer months. I'd warn them about the speed traps (invisible, except for the one near the Foresthill exit, wink-wink) and tell them that getting a ticket would have dire consequences (spell them out -- loss of car for the next year, etc. etc.).

For someone with experience regularly driving 2 or more hours at a stretch, I-80 at the speed limit is a pretty safe road in good weather with good light, and a 200 mile road trip is pretty reasonable for a responsible teenager. The (much shorter, narrower, twistier, and full of stupider drivers) highway 17 to Santa Cruz is way more likely to cause trouble -- and every Bay Area teenager will take that one to go to the beach at some point, probably without telling you.

I might make them prove (receipts!) that they spent an hour in or around Auburn to break the trip up into smaller pieces. I'd definitely insist that they spend at least one night in Tahoe.

No to winter drives to Tahoe. No to up and back in the same day (spring for a cheap Reno motel room), and no to US-50 to South Lake, which is much more twisty with less shoulder and less room for error.

[I drive both 17 to Santa Cruz and 80 to Truckee fairly regularly, in all weather.]

I'm in my 40s now with zero at-fault accidents (of two, total). I probably drove 15,000 miles when I was 17, from DC to NY, eastern MD and DE and frequently to a friend's house about 2 hours into rural Virginia -- as well as a daily 30-45 minute commute to my magnet school in city traffic. The only accident I was in as a teenager was on a grocery run, with my mom in the car (her car!), when someone ran a red light and T-boned us. I was much more careful when on my own, because I knew if I wrecked my car, it'd be a long time before my folks let me get another one.

When I was 18 and in college, I drove coast-to-coast, twice. There's no way I would have been prepared for the cross country trips if I hadn't had lots of experience with 2-4 hour drives the year before.

I'm sure it drove my parents nuts with worry, but letting me take these trips was absolutely the right thing to do, and is at least partially responsible for my hundreds of thousands of accident-free miles today.
posted by toxic at 6:24 PM on May 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

A summertime drive to Tahoe is probably doable at 17, as long as you have parental permission to stay overnight. A wintertime drive is out of the question without an adult next to you. Driving in snow is a different beast and requires 5-10 hrs behind the wheel before you feel comfortable. Tell him that once he logs those hours, he can do the drive in winter.
posted by samthemander at 6:51 PM on May 29, 2015

Why do you need to explain? You are the parent. The answer is no.
posted by pearlybob at 7:21 PM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

Talk is not going to get into a 15 1/2 year old's head. He needs to FEEL it. Is he driving yet with a permit or anything? (I don't know your local driving laws.)

I suggest saying "Let's drive together as much as possible. I want you to learn how to avoid distractions, focus on the road, defensive driving, and how to avoid problematic situations. If you show me you are capable of a trip by 17 - or whatever - then I will consider letting you drive this trip alone."

I agree, you're the parent and you can set the rules, but you also have to set your kid up for success. Being in the car when someone swerves out in front of you - as it did when I was learning to drive - did much more for me being attentive when driving and realizing how a pile-up can happen FAR more than any article or statistics would. Plus when you're behind the wheel, you understand why you turn down the radio when you're trying to focus.

And if he can't drive yet - or isn't driving all the time - then start narrating your driving. Say "See that car up there, they're swerving and stopping short so I'm keeping my distance when staying behind them." Or "It just started raining which is when the road is the slickest, you'll want to look out for puddles and keep you eye on the road through the rain and leave more time to stop." etc. Lead by example for what you expect in their driving. They may or may not be ready for this drive at 17, but I tell you, as a teen I would have rolled my eyes at stats or stories, no matter how realistic or dramatic.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:37 PM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I sympathize, and as someone who has (a) driven a LOT and (b) been exposed to some aviators and how they think I have a tendency to think in terms of concepts like COAF and chain of events (the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course uses chain of events thinking extensively), but I think you're overthinking it in terms of how you're going to present it to a young driver.

You alluded indirectly to the graduated driver laws (can't drive with friends until 17) - I'd simply appeal to parental authority, and state that the road/conditions are too difficult for someone their age. I would also state that IF anything goes wrong (which could be as simple as a flat tire), their lack of experience and resources would complicate matters too much. Keep it simple.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:43 PM on May 29, 2015

What about cold hard facts? Teens are more likely to get in accidents, and when they have friends in the car, they are even more likely.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:14 PM on May 29, 2015

The more you argue with a fifteen year old about what they will or won't be allowed to do when they're 17, the more of a big deal it will become for them, and the less likely it will be that by 17 they've forgotten all about it.

At 17, he will be rather better at processing risk/reward calculations than he is right now - especially if you have spent the time in between explicitly modelling them for him as Crystalinne suggests.
posted by flabdablet at 9:38 PM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: At 15 1/2, neither of you actually has any idea how ready he'll be to make a trip like this at 17. At 17, I was away at college and making my own decisions about where and when to drive, and with whom. I was also a (relatively) good driver for someone my age. I could probably have made this trip.

I have three children, but my oldest just turned 14, so we're not dealing with driving yet. But in a similar situation, I would tell my kid that it would depend on how confident and comfortable they were with driving, and how confident I was in both their driving skills and their level of responsibility. I'd say that I was open to the possibility but it would depend on what happened between now and then. I would tell them that I wanted to hear their thoughts about how they were going to handle the various risks of distraction, fatigue, and so on. "Figure out your plan for doing this as safely as possible," I'd say. I'd tell them that it depended, also, on which of their friends they were planning to travel with. My 14-year-old has a couple of friends I'd trust with anything, anywhere, anytime. But there's also a kid in the mix who is very loud, can get very emotional, and has trouble, sometimes, with impulse control (in relatively minor ways). The first two can ride along on the hypothetical trip to Tahoe. The third? I can barely handle having him in the car for more than half an hour, and often have to shush him very sternly if there are driving conditions, like snow or heavy traffic, that mean I have to concentrate harder than usual. He's not going to Tahoe. My parenting style doesn't often include putting my foot down, but that's where I draw the hypothetical line.

Don't waste the next year and a half fighting over this. Be prepared to trust your kid. Offer him the gift of acknowledging the possibility that he will be able to handle this. Show him respect. Offer your help with the things he'll need to do to get ready—maybe even be prepared to take a trip to Tahoe with him yourself, a test run with him driving. Talk to him about how much fun such a trip sounds; show a little enthusiasm (because it does sound fun, right?). He'll be more open to compromise solutions if he doesn't feel pushed to dig in. He will treasure the sense that you believe in him.

A couple of weeks ago, a cop came to my door to talk to me about my 7-year-old being spotted going to the drug store alone to buy candy. One of the things I told her was that this particular kid is an unusually capable and independent 7-year-old. Neither of his older brothers would have been ready to go to the store alone at 7. And they didn't. But he started doing it at 6. Similarly, 17-year-olds are not a monolith. Some of them are mature beyond their years, and others still seem childish. I don't know what kind of 17-year-old your kid will be, the kind that can handle a drive to Tahoe, or the kind that isn't ready for that yet. Your kid is sure he'll be the kind who can do it, and you're sure he won't be, because you think no 17-year-old can make this drive. The truth is, neither of you knows yet. Be his partner while you wait to find out. It will be good for you both, and you'll be better able to decide together, when the time comes, what the right thing to do is.
posted by not that girl at 6:38 AM on May 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

Tell him you would be open to considering it after he scores 3 points in the Desert Bus video game.
posted by Sophont at 9:45 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a 15 1/2 year old driver (also 17 and 20 year old drivers). It really varies with the driver... their skill level and comfort level (including having teenager immortality syndrome), and who's in the car with them.

Watch some youtube dashcam vidoes together!

Also, in a year and a half, maybe driverless cars?
posted by at at 5:39 AM on May 31, 2015

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