Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in America and for every American teen killed in a car crash, about 100 more are injured. Since 2002 Teens in the Driver Seat® (TDS) has been increasing awareness about teen driver risks and empowering young people to make a difference in their schools and communities.
TDS started as a pilot program in 2002 at William Howard Taft High School in San Antonio, Texas. Since then TDS has been deployed in over 1,318 schools reaching over 1.3 million junior high and high school teens. Georgia was the first state outside of Texas to take advantage of the TDS campaign. One third of the programs’ footprint consists of schools outside of Texas, which, in addition to Georgia includes; California, Colorado, and Nebraska to name a few.
Expansion over the years was not possible without the help of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)—a sponsor for 15 years. Prior to 2007, TDS was only in 24 schools across Texas, but after 15 years and much growth, TDS coordinates with over 300 unique schools each year.
“We are excited about the 15-year partnership that we have had with Teens in the Driver Seat and look forward to many more,” says TxDOT Traffic Safety Director Terry Pence. “We have Traffic Safety Specialists in each of the 25 districts to assist TDS with outreach and increasing student involvement. We all have the same goal in mind and that is reducing teen car crashes and fatalities.”
The year 2007 was pivotal for the TDS program. TDS was awarded its first grant from State Farm™ Texas, providing room for growth and greater impact at the state level. State Farm™ was also integral in helping TDS branch into California and sustain statewide deployment in Georgia.
As the largest automobile insurer in the United States, State Farm™ is committed to advocating for safer roads. Lindsay Southard, a State Farm™ Public Affairs Specialist, adds, “We are proud to support this year’s Teens in the Driver Seat Summit, which encourages responsible, safe driving behaviors among teens in schools across the country by facilitating peer conversations and increasing awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving.”
The TDS Program held its annual Teen Safe Driving Summit in San Antonio, Texas, May 20–22, 2017. It was at the summit where winners of the Annual TDS Cup and Driving the Message Contest were awarded a total of $32,500, thanks in big part to funding and support provided by State Farm™. The money goes to the top TDS teams, who may (in turn) use the money toward building an even stronger TDS program and grassroots traffic safety outreach in their community.
The Summit featured student speakers and safety advocates with breakout sessions and interactive activities targeted at convincing teen drivers and passengers that they have the power to change risky driving behaviors—in effect, to save their own lives and the lives of other drivers and passengers on the road.
In 2015, there were 1,886 young drivers who died and an estimated 195,000 who were injured in motor vehicle crashes nationwide.
“We are proud of our program’s progress over the past 15 years, but we still lose too many teens (and other roadway users) to preventable tragedies — our job isn’t done,” said Russell Henk, founder of TDS and manager of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Youth Transportation Safety Program. “TDS will continue to address this widespread challenge and our collective safe driving efforts to the best of our ability — innovating wherever we can, like through our new Teen Driver app that deters distracted driving and rewards safe drivers.”