Study Shows Teens in the Driver Seat® “Zero Crazy” Initiative Helps Decrease Distracted Driving Among Teens

In an observational study conducted in spring 2018 by Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS), 19 high schools across the nation reported less distracted driving by teens after implementing an activity called “Zero Crazy.” The activity aims to decrease the use of electronic devices by teen drivers while they’re driving. The study further found that schools that repeat the activity over multiple years continue to improve, with an increased percentage of students driving without using electronic devices. Participating schools reported in from Texas, Nebraska, Colorado and Georgia.

High school student teams were asked to observe teen drivers and log if they were or were not visibly using an electronic device. Taking all participating high schools into account regardless of state, drivers who refrained from using electronic devices while driving improved by a rate of 7.8 percent. Here are the state-specific results across all 19 high schools who returned results for analysis:

  • Texas: 10.5 percent improvement.
  • Nebraska: 4.8 percent improvement.
  • Colorado: 6.1 percent improvement.
  • Georgia: 8.2 percent improvement.

This is the fifth year TDS has offered the Zero Crazy activity to its 330 participating schools. It consists of pre-observation, three weeks of peer-led messaging, post-observation, and a $50 gift card for schools that completed and returned observation data. Sixteen years ago the Teens in the Driver Seat® (TDS) initiative was created on the basis of peer influence, which research indicates has a positive impact on teens’ decision-making. To date TDS has reached more than 1.3 million students in over 1,300 schools nationwide.

“The 2018 Zero Crazy distracted driving data suggests teens are more distracted behind the wheel than adults, which is on par with national statistics,” notes Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Agency Director Greg Winfree. “Fundamentally, the program is positively shifting the culture on school campuses, making it cool to drive safe.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 motor-vehicle crashes were the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for youth ages 15–24 and have been the leading cause for more than ten years. TDS, a part of TTI’s Youth Transportation Safety (YTS) Program, set out to change this statistic through positive youth-led injury prevention that now takes place on junior high, high school and college campuses around the country.

Nationally, distracted driving is a problem for this age group — according to NHTSA in 2016, 9 percent (303 of 3,323) of drivers 15–19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reportedly distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time the fatal crash occurred.

“Teens in the Driver Seat has been a great partner, and continues to push the envelope in teen traffic safety education,” says Terry Pence, traffic safety director for the Texas Department of Transportation, a founding and ongoing sponsor of the TDS program.

TDS is also sustained through private partners dedicated to improving attitudes about safety and reducing risky driving behaviors. Students and schools excelling in program initiatives are rewarded at the annual TDS Summit, held this year in San Antonio, Texas, May 19–21, 2018. Winners were awarded over $10,000 in total scholarships and funding, thanks in big part to funding and support provided by State Farm®.

“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,” says Felicia Van Frank, public affairs specialist with State Farm.


About Teens in the Driver Seat®:
Started in 2002, Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) is a peer-to-peer safety program that educates teens about the top five dangers of teen driving – driving at night; speeding and street racing; distractions, such as cell phones and teen passengers; not wearing a seat belt; and alcohol/drug use. TDS is an initiative under the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Youth Transportation Safety (YTS) Program–a not-for-profit program seeking to save lives and reduce injuries among America’s youth by developing and delivering the nation’s most comprehensive suite of transportation safety programs and projects. For more information, please visit

About the Texas A&M Transportation Institute:
Recognized as one of the premier higher education-affiliated transportation research agencies in the world, TTI’s research and development program has made significant breakthroughs across all facets of the transportation system. TTI research is widely known as an excellent value with a proven impact of saving lives, time and resources. In the laboratory and the classroom, TTI researchers help prepare students for transportation careers.