Parents notified when young Michigan drivers get STOPPED

By 8-18 Media
8-18-Media-Logo-300x101The Graduated Driver Licensing program in Michigan has reduced crashes involving young drivers five to eight percent overall according to state traffic safety officials, but the Michigan Sheriff’s Association wants to reduce that number even more.
They have come up with a new approach dubbed the “STOPPED Program,” a parental notification system. The Sheriff’s Association implemented the program in the state in 2006. It was introduced in three phases, with the Upper Peninsula being in the third phase that began in late 2007.
The acronym STOPPED stands for Sheriffs Telling Our Parents and Promoting Educated Drivers. Parents register their young drivers and are sent a sticker to place on each of their vehicles.
Then, when the enrolled car is stopped by any law enforcement officer, the officer fills out a sheet that is sent to the Sheriff’s Association, which sends a letter to the parents detailing when and why the vehicle was pulled over, as well as the number of passengers.
According to Captain David Lemire of the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office, the program does not cost taxpayers any money as it is funded by an outside source.

08038181“The program is funded solely by AAA of Michigan,” he said. “They pay for all the decals. They fund all the brochures, and any promotional items that we may want, they’ll provide to us.”
Tyler Vargo, sixteen, of Big Bay is enrolled in the program. He feels it will be a deterrent for young drivers.
“I think it will help them because they’ll know if they do get stopped that their parents are going to know about it, so they’re not going to want that to happen,” he said. “So I think they’ll try to drive better and be safer.”
Jessica Atherton, sixteen, of Big Bay has a differing opinion on the helpfulness of the program.
“I don’t think it will really change because they’ll still drive the same way they always do,” she said.
Lemire said the program is a tool for parents to use, to ensure their children’s driving habits are up to their standards.
“There really isn’t any other program in the State of Michigan like it,” he said. “Basically this is a tool for the parents to keep track of those young drivers because of the likelihood of young drivers being involved in accidents is much greater than the other age groups.”
In Michigan alone, almost 95,000 people were killed or injured in crashes in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
According to the Sheriff’s Association, of those, 1,585 accidents were fatal, killing 2,825 people. Association officials say 362 of those crashes were caused by drivers between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four.
Out of 592,672 crashes reported in 2005, 67,390 were caused by drivers in that age group. Drivers between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four make up only 15.4 percent of Michigan’s driving population, but are responsible for 23.4 percent of all crashes.
The issue of trust between parents and their kids is one of the controversial areas of this program.
Some youth agree with their parents, saying that since they would have told them anyway, it doesn’t violate that bond, but Atherton disagrees.
“They don’t think that they have the trust thing between us,” she said. “Like we normally always tell them things; it might be then, it might be five years later, but we do eventually tell them.”
Vargo said he understands his parent’s point of view, but still feels mistrusted.
“But I can understand where they’re coming from, seeing how my oldest sister got stopped a lot,” he said.
Gary Vargo of Big Bay, father of Tyler and stepfather of Jessica, said he and his wife, Sandy, enrolled their children in the program as a precautionary measure.
“Just as a safeguard so that we can keep an eye on their driving habits,” he said.
Lemire said that so far, Marquette County has the most young drivers enrolled in the program in the Upper Peninsula with sixty-three vehicles registered. The state as a whole has 4,217.
Lemire said one way the Sheriff’s Association has been looking to improve the program is the use of online forms to send to parents in an e-mail, instead of lengthening the time between the pull over and the receipt of the letter. However he hasn’t seen any downfalls to the program so far.
“I don’t know of any downfalls,” he said. “Throughout the state they haven’t had any issues. Talking to Terry Jungle from the Sheriff’s Association, they’ve had some stories where [the program has] been used on snowmobiles and ORV’s, too, so it can be used on recreational vehicles also.”
Gary Vargo said it is the responsibility of parents to take the lead.
“I think the burden more lies on the parents,” he said. “The parents are the ones that have to take the active role in signing up for it. It’s very easy to do. Just like anything, the kids need to be notified that they’re enrolled in it so they know.”
According to the Sheriff’s Association, seventy-five percent of youth surveyed said they would not inform their parents if they were stopped by law enforcement. Atherton and Tyler disagree on whether they would tell, but both agree the reason behind the large percentage saying they would not tell is the fear of getting in trouble.
“No,” she said. “I would get grounded.”
“Yeah, I probably would because I’d get in a lot of trouble if they found out and I didn’t tell them,” Tyler said.
Atherton and Tyler said they would not recommend the program to parents of their friends.
“You should have a trust bond with your kids,” Atherton said.
“Probably not. I don’t want to see people getting in trouble,” Tyler said. “There are people who aren’t going to pay attention to this, and their (parents) are going to find out and they can get their car taken away or something. I don’t really want to see that happen.”
As you can imagine, Gary Vargo disagrees.
“I believe in the program,” he said. “It’s a good idea. It just kind of helps ease the gap between parents and children when they start driving, and helps keep an eye on them, and hopefully keeps them safer.”
—8-18 Media

Editor’s Note: This story was written by Chelsea Parrish, 16, with contributions by Eric Wagner, 13, and Charles Coccia, 11.

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