For the past nine years, Pepperell High School’s SADD/TDS team (Student Against Destructive Decisions/Teens in the Driver Seat), in Floyd County, Georgia, has planned and conducted a Safe Driving Expo in their community. They planned for months, partnered with local law enforcement, invited local safety partners and businesses, and organized entertainment such as local bands, to conduct a community-wide, family-friendly event where community members could learn about local businesses, interact with safety specialists, and most importantly, walk away with knowledge that would help keep them safer on the roads.
Increasing participation to this well-organized, heavily-planned event, was always a challenge. During these nine years, the Driving Expo has drawn participation from 75 to a little over 200 people each year. While every life impacted is priceless, the challenge to reach more people to compensate for the planning and engagement time remained a constant goal.
This year, the team decided to take a leap from their expo and inviting the community to a time and place, to taking their message to the people and reaching them in their daily lives. “Although there has always been great support from agencies like the Floyd County Police Department, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, Rome City Police Department, Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Teens in the Driver Seat, insurance agencies, and more to assist with educating the public, there has been a lack of participation from the community”, said Alana Ellenburg, Pepperell SADD/TDS Advisor. “We had several discussions about the target audience, location of the Driving Expo, and what we could do better. We finally decided to try to go to the people instead of expecting them to come to us.”
Getting a Signed Proclamation
To do this, the team of 22 teens started at the top. They contacted the Chairman of the Floyd County Board of Commissioners to ask for his support, starting with a County Proclamation to establish April of 2019 as Teen Driving Safety Month. The Chairman asked the team to write the Proclamation for voting. This turned out to be a lesson worth learning since they could include important statistics and risks that the team had been, and wanted to continue, addressing.
On March 26, 2019 at a Commissioner’s meeting, , the Floyd County Board of Commissioners granted and presented Pepperell High School SADD/TDS, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, and the Floyd County Police Department a Proclamation establishing April as Teen Safe Driving Month (shown below).
By receiving the Proclamation, the Floyd County Board of Commissioners demonstrated their continued support for efforts to educate the community as well as their dedication to making Floyd County a safer place to drive. Support from local government and law enforcement empowers teens everywhere to make a difference in their own communities and help save lives.
Taking It to the Streets
With Proclamation in hand, Pepperell SADD/TDS coordinated with the Floyd County Police Department to administer educational events each Monday for two hours in the month of April throughout the community. Partnering with local, traffic-heavy businesses, such as Chick-Fil-A, Rome Braves Minor League Baseball, Kroger, and Walmart, the teens set up tables with information about safe driving. The outreach was a success. Eight teens put in 12 hours of work and spoke with 823 community members on the topics of seat belt use, driving distractions, speeding, nighttime/drowsy driving, and impaired driving. Part of their outreach included a 5-question survey about safe driving knowledge. The team collected 487 surveys, which showed that community members are well-educated about not texting and driving; however, efforts need to continue to focus on the hazards of nighttime/drowsy driving.
Asked if the outreach was successful and accomplished their goals, Raley Brumbelow responded, “Absolutely! Moving our focus to going to the people instead of them coming to us allowed us to educate more people. Our goal was to reach 200 people and we more than doubled that goal.” Kaitlyn Morgan also added, “Changing this event to more of a community outreach program definitely increased our number of participants greatly. It also gave us an opportunity to speak one on one with citizens to educate them about driving safety, including how to keep their families and friends safe on the roads. By doing so, we were able to survey hundreds of people about driving safety to help us understand where the community’s knowledge level is and topics that we need to address more in the future.”
- Make the ask. Community partners are plentiful, but if they don’t know you are working towards the same goals, they can’t help you. Reach out to the people and organizations in your community that can provide support and resources. Even private businesses want to reach community members – insurance companies, auto dealerships, hospitals, and the list goes on.
- Empower the teens. Life lessons are embedded in working with other people. Everyone is busy, but developing leaders who can speak up, connect with others, and make things happen are invaluable now and over time.
- People want to help. Present the facts and there is no way people won’t care. Driving safety is important.
If you’re interested in starting or sponsoring a TDS team, check out: https://www.t-driver.com/get-involved/start-tds/ for more info on how to get involved.
About the Teens in the Driver Seat Program
Started in 2002, Teens in the Driver Seat® is the first peer-to-peer program for teens that focuses solely on traffic safety and addresses all major risks for this age group.
Teens help shape the program and are responsible for implementing it and educating their peers and parents; Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) provides the science, guidance and project resources.
Teens in the Driver Seat® is available to high schools in California, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas. Additionally, the junior high school program is available in Texas and Georgia.