Safer driving habits by teenagers in Garland, Texas, have helped to sharply reduce fatal crashes in that community, according to a recent case study by researchers from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). The announcement was made at a recent news conference in Garland.
The researchers attribute the improvements to a combination of two factors: the state’s graduated driver license (GDL) law — which places restrictions on drivers for the first year that they have a license — and Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS), which is designed to reinforce the GDL law through peer influence.
TDS has been active for four years in Garland’s seven high schools. “In 2006, we came together with a common purpose – to reverse the trend of teen traffic crashes in our community. And we are proud to say that we have done just that,” said Jaywin Malhi, the chair of the Garland Youth Council and a member of the Garland TDS team.
The research team wanted to compare driver behavior and crash statistics among Garland teens and the non-TDS students from nearby Mesquite. While both cities experienced improvements during the study period, those in Garland were more dramatic: The number of teen crash fatalities in Garland dropped from 9 to 1, while the number in Mesquite fell from 4 to 2. Also, the share of crashes involving teen drivers in Garland fell from 28 percent to 16 percent, while declining from 24 percent to 22 percent in Mesquite. In addition, Garland teens demonstrated higher seat-belt use and lower cell-phone use behind the wheel than their counterparts in Mesquite.
“Our research team found that a graduated driver license law can be made more effective when it is reinforced by peer-to-peer efforts like the Teens in the Driver Seat program,” Agency Director Dennis Christiansen said. “Laws provide a necessary foundation, and peer influence can make those laws work better.”
Garland’s involvement in the Teens in the Driver Seat program is important for the safety of our youth,” Garland Mayor Ronald E. Jones said. “I am particularly pleased with the leadership demonstrated by members of the Garland Youth Council as they work with the Garland ISD high schools to spread these vital safety messages to their peers.”