Students of William Howard Taft High School this week are launching the state’s first-ever teen-developed campaign aimed at making the streets and highways safer.
Nationwide, more than 5,700 teens died in vehicle crashes during 2001, the most recent year reflected in current statistics. In San Antonio during the same year, 10 teens were killed in car crashes over a six-week period, and some of those were Taft students. Last year, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Institute approached Taft officials with a plan to prevent similar tragedies. An in-school recruitment effort produced a team of 24 students, who later adopted the group name “Project YIELD” – Youth Informing Every Living Driver. The “Careless Driving Is Life Depriving” campaign is result of their creative work.
“We believe one critical element has been missing from other driving safety campaigns for young people,” says Ximena Copa-Wiggins, public information officer for TxDOT, which funded the Taft project. “Previous campaigns have not involved the target audience from beginning to end – and that’s what we’ve done with Project YIELD. Every part of this campaign has been inspired, produced or influenced by the students on our team.¿
This week’s campaign launch involves daily announcements leading up to spring break, in-school posters, promotional materials, and the centerpiece of the campaign – a three-minute video written by the students, who also star in the production. The campaign is built around the five most common risk factors for teen drivers: nighttime driving, lack of driving experience, the presence of teen passengers, risky behavior (speeding, using a cell phone while driving, not using safety belts, etc.) and alcohol and drug use.
The program also includes Clark High School as the “control” school. Last fall, TTI researchers conducted more than 2,000 surveys at the two high schools to measure the risk factor awareness of students and parents. Researchers will soon conduct another round of surveys to assess the campaign¿s impact on awareness and behavior.
After launching the program at Taft and Clark, TxDOT and TTI will begin work to export the program to other schools in San Antonio, and ultimately, to schools throughout Texas.