Despite knowing the dangers of risky driving behaviors, a survey of young drivers at a Texas Panhandle high school shows that teens regularly adopt those behaviors anyway. The results of the survey, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program, were compared to results from 34 other Texas high schools.
“We’ve found that, compared to urban teenagers, young drivers in rural areas are more inclined to drive at night, use a cell phone and not wear seatbelts,” says Russell Henk, manager of the TDS program. “These are among the factors that account for 6,000 teen deaths a year in the U.S., and that’s why we’re thrilled to get the program started at Pampa High School.”
TDS is the nation’s first peer-to-peer driver safety program and, so far, has been deployed in about 100 Texas high schools. One of the unique aspects of the TDS Program is that the students themselves spread driving safety messages to each other. The campaign is designed to focus on the dangers associated with some teen driving behaviors and urge a change in those behaviors. Teens create videos, hold press conferences, conduct seat belt checks in school parking lots and use a variety of other means to encourage each other to drive safely.
The Pampa High School students began the TDS program in their school May 14 and were joined by State Rep. Warren Chisum for the announcement. “Numerous studies—and our own experience—tell us that teenagers listen to each other much more than they listen to adults,” Chisum told reporters and audience members during the news conference. “What better way then to make them safer on the roadways than to have them carry the message of safety and awareness to each other?”
The TDS program was developed by TTI, which provides the science, materials and support for the safety campaign, while each student group determines how the program will work in their own school. In Texas, TDS is offered to high schools at no cost through funding support from the Texas Department of Transportation and State Farm Insurance.