For immediate release: November 12, 2008
For more information:
Jeanine Audette, 860-584-7043
Bernie Fette, 979-845-2623 (office) or 979-777-7532 (cell)
BRISTOL – A recent study shows that area teenagers understand little about the main dangers they face on the road. In response, students from two local high schools are using a new program to reverse the growing trend of teen crash deaths and injuries.
Students from Central and Eastern High Schools in Bristol completed questionnaires in October as a first step in their launch of Teens in the Driver Seat®, America’s first peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers. The two schools are the first in New England to initiate the program.
About 50 teenage drivers in Connecticut are involved in fatal crashes every year. Researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute (a national research agency) attribute those 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 and street racing, low seat belt use, and alcohol.
Findings from the local study offer insights into what local teen drivers understand about the primary risks they face:
- Only 2 percent realize that nighttime driving is risky, even though that factor ranks at the top of the list of dangers.
- Only 15 percent regard the lack of seat belt use as being a major contributor to crash injuries and deaths.
- 41 percent could name at least three of the top five driving dangers, 25 percent could name four, and three percent could name all five.
- On a positive note, 76 percent recognized speeding as risky, and 95 percent cited alcohol as a risk factor.
More than 6,000 U.S. teens die every year in traffic crashes – the number one cause of death, by far, for this age group.
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. The program started in Texas, where it is active in some 130 high schools. Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern are the first schools in the Northeastern U.S. to launch the program. Funding is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Most young drivers don’t know that they’re 10 times more likely to die in a crash than people in other age groups,” says Russell Henk, Director of the TDS Program. “But they need to hear the message from a source they trust; they need to hear it from each other. That’s what Teens in the Driver Seat is all about.”
Schools interested in starting the program can learn more at www.t-driver.com.