Most teenage driving fatalities happen at night and, based on a survey by TTI researchers, teens really are in the dark about the dangers associated with nighttime driving. That was the message of an Austin news conference conducted by the Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) Program Oct. 30, just days before the end of Daylight Saving Time.
“The teen driver safety problem has reached epidemic proportions—here in Texas and around the world,” Director Dennis Christiansen told members of the news media gathered in the Texas State Capitol. “It’s an urgent public health crisis, and TTI has been working for years to better understand it. Now, we not only know more about what causes the problem, we also know more about how to address it.”
TTI researchers surveyed more than 4,400 teens at 17 Texas high schools to determine how much they know about driving risks, and how often they engage in dangerous driving behaviors. The findings highlight the reasons why driving is the number-one cause of death for teenagers in the U.S.:
- Less than one percent of Texas teens understand that driving at night is unsafe, while almost half say they routinely drive after 10 p.m.
- Only a third of teens recognize that it’s dangerous to talk or text on a cell phone while they drive, and roughly half admit doing so frequently.
- 72 percent of teens think drug and alcohol use is the number one risk factor, even though they rank fifth on the list of crash causes.
The survey also determined that teen drivers in rural areas are twice as likely to talk or text message and three times more likely to have received a speeding ticket. The study also revealed that rural teens are also more likely to drive at night.
After the news conference, officials with State Farm Insurance presented TDS a check for $500,000, representing the company’s new commitment in funding the program for the next five years. State Farm Insurance representative Ronnie Vandiver spoke at the news conference, as did other proponents of TDS, namely Texas Transportation Commissioner Hope Andrade, and Texas State Senator Kirk Watson.
One of TTI’s fastest-growing initiatives, Teens in the Driver Seat is led by Russell Henk, TDS Program Director, and Bernie Fette, TDS Public Affairs Director.