Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), with support from State Farm Insurance recently published a report of teen driver safety benchmarks. These reports are always of interest to me and the entire Teens in the Driver Seat® team, because they relate directly to our core mission and help illustrate the critical need for continued efforts to reduce car crashes involving teen drivers. As we at Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) have known for decades, data can be examined from many angles. It can be a challenge to zero in on common facts that safety professionals can use to measure our collective progress. In that respect, this new report is valuable.
When Teens in the Driver Seat® began in 2001, we focused on the (then) total of approximately 6,000 teen deaths a year due to car crashes in the U.S. We defined teens (and still do) as those of ages 13 to 19. With the input of teens for the overall graphic design, we printed t-shirts with that figure (6,000) prominently displayed on the front. We have used that (6,000) figure for several years in public service announcements and in many of our program materials. According to the Miles to Go report from CHOP, that figure was 4,358 in 2008. Our data from Texas, where the Teens in the Driver Seat® Program has now reached over 400 schools and 500,000 teens, indicate an even bigger drop in teen fatalities (40% compared to 27% for the U.S.) over this time span. Texas is also the only state where this statistic has consistently dropped each and every year since the Teens in the Driver Seat® Program began.
So whether we reference the recently-released data from CHOP, or other known and respected sources of quality information like TTI, the conclusion is consistent: we are making great strides in addressing this issue, but we still lose far too many teens in car crashes (as well as others impacted by such preventable events), and much work remains to be done.
As we move forward in our ongoing fight to stop the number-one killer of America’s youth, we remain committed to being the premier peer-to-peer program of our kind — thoroughly addressing the known top risks for our young drivers: driving at night, speeding, distractions (like cell phones/texting and teen passengers), not wearing a seat belt, and drinking & driving. We will do so constantly, with traffic safety as our one and only focus. We thank those at CHOP who produced this Miles to Go report and are hopeful that it will re-energize our colleagues in the traffic safety profession, as well as the hundreds of thousands of teens we work with day-to-day, to maintain our positive forward progress — it has certainly done so for me.
– Rusell Henk
Program Director, Teens in the Driver Seat®
Contact Russell by emailing email@example.com or contact Teens in the Driver Seat®.
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