The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and State Farm today announced that expanded funding from the nation’s largest insurance company has helped to introduce the successful Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program in more than 100 new schools, resulting in the program now being active in 35 states.
Officials say that the $470,000 in total grant funding—$350,000 from the State Farm Corporate Office and $120,000 from the State Farm South Central Market—is helping to reach 100,000 additional teen drivers in 2015.
“State Farm and TTI are both national leaders in what they do, and by working together they will continue to make our roadways safer for all drivers and passengers,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “This partnership exemplifies the commitment to public service that is central to the mission of the A&M System.”
For the past seven years, State Farm has provided $100,000 annually to help TDS positively influence teens in the state of Texas to improve their driving behaviors and embrace safer driving habits. TDS promotes awareness of the top five dangers of teen driving: driving at night; speeding and street racing; distractions, such as cell phones/texting and teen passengers; not wearing a seat belt; and alcohol/drug use. With the program’s resources and staff support, high schools undertake a variety of grassroots outreach activities throughout the year in their schools and communities to help create a traffic safety culture.
“State Farm is excited and honored to work with TDS. Safe driving is a lifelong commitment and efforts like these keep the issue top of mind,” said David Beigie, State Farm VP of Public Affairs. “With TDS, we look forward to rallying around young people to embrace a ‘two eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel’ approach to safe driving.”
“State Farm is committed to the Teens in the Driver Seat program, and we’re dedicated to the belief that safe driving takes a commitment from the start,” said State Farm Public Affairs Specialist Dave Oloffson. “Together with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, we’re rallying around young drivers and encouraging them to make safe driving choices every time they’re behind the wheel.”
TDS has won more than 20 local, state and national awards and has been recognized as a national best practice each of the past four years. Since TDS was founded in San Antonio in 2002, Texas has seen a 70 percent decrease in the frequency of fatal crashes involving 15- to 17-year-old drivers and is the only state in the United States to see a drop every year over that time span.
“We’re delighted to build upon our seven-year relationship between TDS and State Farm in Texas with this expanded initiative,” explains TDS Program Manager Russell Henk. “Our unique, shared approach is to positively influence teens to be safer drivers, rather than try to scare compliance into them. Our commitment to this strategy now for more than a decade (with TDS) is consistently producing positive results.
The enhanced relationship with State Farm extends the insurance carrier’s Celebrate My Drive (CMD) program, which engages with teens where they learn to drive — their local communities. The program encourages teen drivers to safely celebrate their newfound freedom with awareness and attention to the driving task. Each year, the CMD program awards 100 schools — 50 with student populations below 750 and 50 with populations above that number — community grants for that purpose.