The U in the Driver Seat® (UDS) program is holding its Peer-to-Peer Impaired Driving Prevention Symposium at The University of Texas at Arlington April 24-25, and it couldn’t be better timed.
Statewide statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) indicate that crash-related deaths involving drivers 18-24 years old driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are significantly on the rise over the past five years. And DUI-related deaths for the same age group in Dallas/Fort Worth are increasing at nearly three times the statewide rate over that time span. Representatives from several major universities and colleges will come together at the symposium to raise awareness of the consequences of driving under the influence.
“The fact that college-aged drivers are dying unnecessarily on our state highways is tragic enough,” says Russell Henk, manager of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Youth Transportation Safety Program. “That young impaired drivers in Dallas-Fort Worth are dying at such an increasing rate is truly alarming.”
Henk is director of TTI’s award-winning Teens in the Driver Seat® (TDS) program, which is dedicated to raising awareness of unsafe driving practices by high school students and encouraging positive teen peer-to-peer relationships to promote safer driving behaviors among them. In 2012, the program spawned UDS, aimed at accomplishing the same goals in college-aged drivers.
The data examined span 2010 to 2014 and show an increase — from 60 to 71 percent statewide — in crash-related deaths of drivers 18-24 years of age driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That’s an 18 percent (relative) increase over five years. When the Dallas-Fort Worth area is broken out from the statewide numbers for the same five-year period, DUI-related deaths for 18-to-24 year olds have increased from 51 to 77 percent. That’s a 51 percent (relative) jump in D/FW, nearly triple the rate of increase at the statewide level.
UT-Arlington’s Health Services is co-hosting the two-day symposium at the Mavericks Activity Center located on campus at 500 W. Nedderman Drive. The symposium features speakers, breakout sessions, and interactive activities targeted at convincing college-aged drivers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and around the state of Texas that they have the power to lower those statistics; in effect, to save their own lives and the lives of other drivers and passengers on the road. Breakout sessions are covering how students can take the lead on their local campuses to positively influence their peers and debunk myths associated with drugs and alcohol and their effects on drivers.
“Experience with TDS has shown us that peers can be a very effective means for facilitating positive behavioral change in high school-aged drivers,” explains Henk. “We’re applying that model with UDS and helping young college-age drivers see how they can keep themselves and their passengers safe when they get behind the wheel. We’re dedicated to reducing these troubling statistics — both locally and statewide — and saving young drivers’ lives. That’s what this event is all about.”