Traffic safety professionals agree that the problems young drivers face on our roadways are too great to rely on any single countermeasure to achieve significant crash frequency and crash rate reductions. There is a need for quality driver training, law enforcement, effective outreach and parental involvement. But there is also a critical need for positive peer influence, the type that has been successfully demonstrated through the efforts of Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Youth Transportation Safety (YTS) Program, which includes two foundational peer-to-peer education programs.
The YTS Program uses positive peer influence to help educate and deter risky driving behaviors to school-aged children. Utilizing YTS’ program footprint, the team offers large truck and bus safety education and resources to schools across the country, encouraging teens to perform safety-related activities with their peers to raise awareness of unique driving needs for trucks and buses. These include following distances, braking, turning radius, rural road safety and work zone safety.
During the 2022-2023 school year, the Teen’s in the Driver Seat school (TDS) seat belt observations resulted in both a 9 percent and 17 percent increase in driver and passenger seat belt use and a 34 percent decline in phone use while driving and walking.
Results from a survey involving 16,672 teens indicated:
- 58 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to talk on the phone while driving.
- 93 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to text or update social media while driving.
- 93 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to drive when excessively fatigued.
- 88 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to drive without a seat belt.
- 71 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to drive 10+ miles over the posted speed limit.
- 96 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to drive after drinking too much.
- 91 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to drive after using marijuana.
Additionally, the TTI team uncovered some other key insights, including:
- Between 2017 and October 31, 2021, a total of 1,399 drivers under the age of 26 were involved in fatal crashes with large motor vehicles in the United States.
- Young drivers in rural areas exhibit a higher percentage of involvement in fatal crashes with large trucks compared to their urban counterparts.
Implemented in 2002, TDS is the first peer-to-peer program in the nation for teens that focuses solely on traffic safety and addresses all major risks for this age group. Teens and young adults help shape the program and are responsible for implementing it; while TTI provides the science, guidance and project resources. As opposed to a single day (or event) focused on teen and young adult driving safety, what is critical to the success of a peer-to-peer program is the sustained focus on teen driver-related issues throughout the calendar year.
Development of peer leaders is paramount to successful programming. Rather than hearing from adults, teens within the school community learn about passenger, driver and pedestrian risks, and conduct educational activities with their peers.
FMCSA supports these outreach efforts through funding for educational resources and activity development and dissemination, workshops with teen leaders and the You in the Driver Seat app development.
TDS has extended its reach to encompass more than 2,100 schools. YTS is made possible through a combination of public and private funding. This distinctive funding model enables YTS to offer an approach where all resources and support are provided to program schools completely free of charge.
For more information on this project, please contact:
TTI Project Manager II
Youth Transportation Safety Program
Project Title: National Awareness and Education – Promote Safe Vehicle and Nonvehicle Practices By Teens
Project Start and End Dates: September 1, 2022 – August 31, 2024
Author List: Youth Transportation Safety Program
Sponsor/Funding Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)