On May 12, the Texas House of Representatives adopted H.R. 1949, a resolution recognizing the contributions made to teen driving safety by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and its Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program. Launched in 2002 by TTI and sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation, State Farm Insurance and others, the program has now reached over 1,000 Texas junior high and high schools and served more than 1.3 million students nationwide, including students in Georgia, Colorado, California and Nebraska. | View Texas House Resolution 1949
“We are excited about the 15-year partnership that we have had with Teens in the Driver Seat and look forward to many more,” says TxDOT Traffic Safety Director Terry Pence. “We have Traffic Safety Specialists in each of the 25 districts to assist TDS with outreach and increasing student involvement. We all have the same goal in mind and that is reducing teen car crashes and fatalities.”
With support from TxDOT, TDS started as a pilot program in 2002 at William Howard Taft High School in San Antonio, Texas. The peer-to-peer safety program educates teens about the top five dangers of teen driving—driving at night; speeding and street racing; distractions, such as cell phones and teen passengers; not wearing a seat belt; and alcohol/drug use. The founder of the program, TTI Senior Research Engineer Russell Henk, notes that although TDS has made great strides in reducing teen injuries and deaths on U.S. roadways, there’s still much work to be done.
“We are proud of our program’s progress over the past 15 years, but we still lose too many teens (and other roadway users) to preventable tragedies―our job isn’t done,” says Henk, manager of TTI’s Youth Transportation Safety Program. “We will continue to address this widespread challenge and our collective safe driving efforts to the best of our ability―innovating wherever we can, like through our new Teen Driver app that deters distracted driving and rewards safe drivers.”
About 2,800 U.S. teens die each year in car crashes, the equivalent of a school bus loaded with teenagers crashing once every week for an entire year. Since TDS was founded, the program has won more than 20 local, state and national awards and is recognized as a national best practice program for teen driver safety. During that same period, Texas has seen a 70 percent decrease in the frequency of fatal crashes involving 15- to 17-year-old drivers to date.
Returning to where it all started, TDS will host students at its annual TDS Summit this weekend. The summit brings together top TDS teams from around the country to reward them for their unflagging dedication to improving driving safety among their peers. Winners will be awarded a total of $32,500, thanks in large part to funding provided by State Farm™.
“TDS is an excellent example of how our researchers put research into practice and make a difference,” says TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree. “Started in Texas, the program, which has saved countless teen lives, is now embraced around the country. We couldn’t be more proud of Russell, his colleagues in TDS, and all they’ve accomplished to protect our children.”