Even as the Teens in the Driver Seat program continues its expansion across Texas, new schools in other states are following the Lone Star State’s lead.
With support from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program in North Carolina, Johnston County launched its Teens in the Driver Seat program in February. Teenagers are involved directly in developing and delivering driving safety messages at all 10 county high schools. Their goal is to raise awareness of the top driving dangers for teens and prevent crashes involving young drivers. Teens made their announcement of the program at a press conference, where they outlined their plans after pointing out just how severe the problem is in their part of North Carolina. From 2006 to 2010, Johnston County saw 32 teenage drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes, ranking second in the state. Only Wake County, which has more than five times the population of Johnston, had more teen crash deaths.
In the northeast, United Way of West Central Connecticut helped to advance the cause of teen driver safety with a forum held in April at Terryville High School. About 100 students from several high schools in the area attended the forum, where they had a chance to learn how TDS works. TDS actually got its start in Connecticut two years ago, when Bristol Eastern High School and Bristol Central High School became the first schools in New England to launch the program.
The students also heard from Lauren Roberge, a local teenager who told her story about how texting and driving can produce tragic results, as it did for her when she crashed and barely survived, requiring a long hospital stay and numerous surgeries to allow her to walk once again.
Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Georgia became the newest school in that state to start TDS when they announced the program at a press conference in March. Among the first activities conducted by the students was a safe driving pledge, signed by nearly all students in the school. In addition, the students participated in a survey of risk awareness and driving behavior. In the survey, they discovered that although nighttime driving is the most common danger, most students didn’t know it was such a risk. Only 3 percent of teens surveyed were aware of the danger, but 25 percent said they often drive late at night. Most students also know talking or texting on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, but one in five say they do it anyway.
In announcing the program, group leader Julian Hinds pointed out why the peer-to-peer approach is so important. “When you constantly hear adults or an older person, you tend to tune it out,” he said. “We’re telling each other as friends and classmates … and I think it’s going to pay off.”