The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Youth Transportation Safety (YTS) Program held the first of its kind Youth Transportation Safety Summit May 15–17. This year’s event brought together young traffic safety ambassadors from junior high to college students alongside highway safety professionals for the first time in the program’s history. The summit provided a national platform for engaging workshops and sessions related to traffic safety.
The theme for this year’s summit was “Life is a Highway,” and attendees had the opportunity to learn about the latest highway safety research, best practices and strategies to combat risky behaviors of youth and young adults that put them at a greater risk for car crashes. Additionally, topics explored how car crashes were part of a much larger system and influenced by social norms, environments and personal beliefs. The summit challenged attendees to explore these connections more within their own community to make meaningful changes.
The event kicked off with an advisory board meeting on May 15 at TTI’s headquarters at the Texas A&M RELLIS Campus in Bryan, and was attended by new, returning and outgoing members. Attendees had the opportunity to connect with others and network over traffic safety-related topics before the event kicked off on May 16.
The following day, attendees arrived at the Hilton College Station for the official opening of the summit. The day started with registration and a continental breakfast, followed by welcome remarks by TTI Associate Research Scientist and YTS Program Manager Lisa Minjares-Kyle and TTI Senior Research Engineer and Director of the Center for Transportation Safety Robert Wunderlich. The welcoming remarks were followed by a keynote session from Motivational Speaker Ashley Brinton.
“Over the past 20 years, we’ve traveled a long road, navigating the twists and turns of highway safety,” noted Minjares-Kyle during the opening session. “Together, we have made significant strides, supporting 500 schools and reaching an astounding 720,000 students. But let us not forget our ‘whys.’ I challenge each and every one of you to reflect on your motivations. Although we’ve made tremendous progress, let us remember that there’s still much work ahead, and together, we will continue to make a difference.”
After a brief break, over 100 attendees participated in traffic safety workshops and sessions covering topics such as driving under the influence, distracted driving, bicyclist and pedestrian safety, and driving around large trucks.
The last day of the summit kicked off with a welcome-back message followed by a workshop led by National Student Safety Program Coordinator for the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association Jennifer Brown. The event concluded with a closing session led by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Maggi Gunnels, who encouraged attendees to become transportation safety leaders and engage in their communities.
“Imagine a world where no one dies on our roadways,” said Gunnels. “As we envision the future, let’s reflect on the ever-changing world in five, 10, 15, even 30 years. The world is constantly changing, and we must keep up with the transformations. You are the next generation of leaders. So, I ask you, what do you see in your future? Embrace it with unwavering passion and dedication.”
The 2023 Youth Transportation Safety Summit was made possible by the generous support of several sponsors, including the Texas Department of Transportation, State Farm, Union Pacific and General Motors. Through their support, the event was free to attendees and provided valuable insights and strategies to combat risky young driving behaviors, helping to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
“I want to express our gratitude to our sponsors, staff and attendees for their invaluable time, unwavering dedication and steadfast commitment to our mission of saving lives,” Minjares-Kyle said as the Summit came to a close. “Together, we have embarked on a journey, filled with valuable lessons and inspiring moments. Let us carry these insights forward, incorporating and sharing them as we continue to pave the way towards safer roads in our nation.”