With some international help, the Teens in the Driver Seat® (TDS) Program, the nation’s first peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers, is expanding.
That announcement came Tuesday as state leaders and officials of the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization gathered to observe the first-ever Global Road Safety Week. Noting that car crashes are the number-one killer of teenagers worldwide, they pledged to work together to combat the problem.
More than 6,000 teens die in crashes every year in the U.S. The number exceeds 500 in Texas, where young drivers are involved in 22 percent of all crashes (compared with 15 percent nationwide). Globally, the WHO estimates that more than 400,000 people under 25 die in traffic crashes yearly.
“We are facing an epidemic, yet this leading cause of death for teenagers around the world can’t be cured with a pill,” said State Rep. Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs, chairman of the House Human Services Committee. “To reverse this awful trend, we need awareness and we need action, and that’s what we’re here to promote today.”
The United Nations General Assembly has called for the observance of Global Road Safety Week, reflecting growing concern over the problem of roadway crash injuries and fatalities. Because young drivers and passengers constitute a large percentage of those hurt and killed in crashes, the UN is dedicating the first annual observance to young road users.
“No crash is an accident; we can all work to prevent them by driving responsibly,” said Dr. Maria Teresa Cerqueira, Chief of the U.S.-Mexico Border office of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. “I would like to make a call to all teens in the driver seat to give all their attention while driving, to avoid distractions like cellular phones and other teen passengers, to assure the use of seat belts of all passengers, to not drive at night, and to completely avoid speeding, drinking or using any other drug.”
Funded primarily by TxDOT and developed by the Texas Transportation Institute, the TDS program is in more than 60 schools across the state. Pointing to research that says teens listen to each other more than they do adults, TDS (at www.t-driver.com) uses the teens themselves to develop and deliver the programs’ safety messages. Transportation Commission member Hope Andrade said the focus of TDS is consistent with the UN’s position.
“Through the World Youth Assembly for Road Safety, the WHO and its partners are giving a voice to young people and others should follow their example,” Andrade said. “By promoting our safety message through peer-to-peer communication, we are doing just that.”
In addition to furthering the new safety program in Texas, Andrade said work with the PAHO/WHO will begin soon to implement a bilingual, bi-national pilot of TDS along the U.S.-Mexico border, with potential future expansion into other parts of Latin America.