For immediate release: January 21, 2009
For more information:
Stephanie Schraeder, Channelview ISD, 281-452-8025
Bernie Fette, TDS, 979-777-7532
CHANNELVIEW – Local teens share a number of risky driving habits with other young drivers across Texas, according to a recent study. In response, Channelview students have launched Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS), the nation’s first peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers. Channelview is the first school in the Houston region to start the program.
Nearly 500 Texas teens die every year in traffic crashes. Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) researchers attribute the crashes to inexperience, combined with one or more of the five main risks that plague young drivers: driving at night, distractions (primarily cell phones, texting and other teen passengers), speeding, low safety belt use, and alcohol.
TTI assessed risk awareness and driving behavior of teens at Channelview and 23 other high schools across Texas during the past year. Key findings, announced during a student-led press conference on Wednesday, showed that the students don’t understand the key causes of crashes involving young drivers, and they’re prone to dangerous driving habits:
- Only about one percent of teens statewide and locally regard nighttime driving as risky, and about 30 percent of them routinely drive after 10 p.m. Late night driving is the most common contributor to crashes involving young drivers.
- Half of the Channelview students recognize that speeding is dangerous, and 20 percent of them say they speed frequently. Speeding is the second most common cause of teen-driver crashes.
- Two-thirds of Channelview students recognize that talking or texting on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, but nearly 20 percent of them say they frequently do so anyway. Distractions, including cell phones, rank number three on the list of the most common dangers for young drivers.
The findings are based on a total of 769 responses at Channelview. Statewide, about 11,000 students participated in the study. Responses suggest that Channelview students are about as likely as other Texas teens to speed, drive after drinking or drive without a safety belt. At the same time, local teens are somewhat less likely to talk or text on a cell phone while driving or drive late at night.
Car crashes kill more young people than any other cause, accounting for nearly 6,000 teen deaths nationwide.
“This problem has become an epidemic across America,” said Danielle Thibodeaux, a student leader of the Channelview TDS program. “Effective laws and driver training are important, but they are not enough. We can’t reverse this deadly trend without positive peer pressure; that’s the idea behind Teens in the Driver Seat.”
Unlike other safety initiatives targeting young people behind the wheel, TDS involves teens directly to help develop and deliver the right safety messages. TTI developed TDS and provides the science, materials and support for the program, while each student group determines how the program will work in their school.
At Channelview, the students have spread their messages through hallway decorations, conducted safety belt checks (with rewards for students who buckle up), and used the homecoming parade to reach both students and parents. In addition, they promoted driving safety messages at each game of the football season.
The program is offered to Texas schools at no cost through funding support from the Texas Department of Transportation and State Farm Insurance.
Schools interested in starting the program can learn more at www.t-driver.com.