The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) U in the Driver Seat (UDS) education and outreach program held its 2022 UDS Symposium in Austin, Texas, April 29–30. With the support of State Farm, the Texas Department of Transportation, and Union Pacific Railroad, the symposium was available at no cost to college-aged students representing different colleges across Texas.
UDS, a young adult peer-to-peer injury prevention program focusing on motor vehicle crashes, helps students learn about the risks they face behind the wheel and supports them in spreading safe driving messages to their campus and community. This year’s symposium theme was Back to the Driver Seat, a play on the science fiction film series Back to the Future. The event featured speakers, breakout sessions and interactive activities targeted at educating and motivating college-aged drivers to change risky driving behaviors.
“Our statewide statistics indicate that traffic crashes are still a leading cause of injury and death for young adults ages 18–25,” says Lisa Minjares-Kyle, TTI assistant research scientist under the Youth Transportation Safety Program. “Our annual symposium informs students about how impairment can negatively impact their driving skills and aims to improve those statistics by changing behaviors in a positive way.”
After welcoming this year’s attendees to the symposium, UDS staff led an interactive leadership workshop to help attendees develop teambuilding and outreach skills needed to effectively lead the UDS program at their respective campuses. Day one concluded with a mocktail video contest on Facebook and Instagram, where attendees were tasked with creatively showcasing the dangers of impaired driving.
The second day included a full lineup of sessions ranging from alcohol and drug abuse topics to an interactive safety session on pedestrian and bicycle safety. During the luncheon session, the UDS program held its annual awards ceremony to recognize programs and students for their participation in the UDS program throughout the 2021–2022 school year. Cash awards were presented to the top schools for the annual UDS All-Stars competition: Our Lady of the Lake University, Texas A&M University — Kingsville, The University of Texas at Dallas, and The University of Texas at San Antonio. Along with school cash awards, Esmeralda Gutierrez, a student at Texas A&M University — Kingsville, was awarded a $250 scholarship for her work as a Collegiate Advisory Board member.
The event concluded with a keynote address from motivational speaker Dave Davlin. Davlin’s enthusiasm and message of service left attendees reenergized to continue spreading safe driving messaging to their local colleges and communities.