For immediate release: April 7, 2008
For more information: Joshua Rosenblum, 202-251-8432 or Shawna Russell, 512-565-3903
SAN ANTONIO – Congressman Ciro Rodriguez today announced a federal appropriation aimed at reducing the number of teen crash fatalities in Southwest Texas. Funding in the amount of $343,000 will be used to expand the successful Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program, America’s first peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers. More than 6,000 teens die every year in traffic crashes – the number one cause of death, by far, for this age group.
“That’s the equivalent of a commercial jet loaded with teenagers crashing to the ground every week for an entire year,” Rodriguez noted in his announcement at Communications Arts High School.
“But that’s not how these tragedies happen; they happen one or two at a time, which is why this problem isn’t getting the attention we believe it deserves. Through this appropriation, Teens in the Driver Seat intends to change that.”
Work will be concentrated in the 23rd Congressional District, which Rodriguez represents in Congress.
Surveys of high school students across Texas show that young drivers and their passengers are largely unaware of the risks that they face. Those risks (in addition to basic inexperience) include: driving at night, distractions such as cell phones and too many teen passengers, speeding, low seat belt use, and alcohol. The surveys also indicate that teens frequently engage in risky driving behaviors. TDS is designed to address both risk awareness and driving behavior, relying largely on the power of peer-based communication.
“Numerous studies – and our own experience – tell us that teenagers listen to each other far more than they listen to adults. What better way then, to make them safer on the roadways, than to have them carry the message to each other?” said Hope Andrade, Chairwoman of the Texas Transportation Commission, who joined Rodriguez for the announcement. “For the past few years, that’s what we’ve been doing at TxDOT through our involvement in the TDS program.”
TDS was originally launched on the campus of Communications Arts and adjacent Taft High School in a 2003 pilot study. In that effort, the peer-to-peer communication effort helped raise awareness of certain driving risks by as much as 200 percent. Since that time, the TDS program has spread to nearly 100 schools across Texas.
“We’re working to stop the number-one killer of teenagers in America,” Rodriguez said. “And I am proud to be able to augment these efforts for Southwest Texas through this federal appropriation.”