For immediate release: November 14, 2007
For more information: Bernie Fette, 979-845-2623 (office) or 979-777-7532 (cell)
DULUTH – With the recent end of Daylight Saving Time, driving in Georgia just got a lot more dangerous for teenagers. To make matters worse, a study of local teens reveals that young drivers aren’t even aware of the danger.
Researchers from the Texas Transportation Institute surveyed more than 1,100 teens at Duluth High School in recent weeks to determine how much they knew about driving risk factors, and how often they engaged in risky driving behaviors. The findings bring new understanding to the reasons behind the number-one cause of death for teenagers in the U.S.
- Fewer than one percent of the teens surveyed understand that driving at night is unsafe, while almost a fourth of them say they routinely drive after 10 p.m.
- Roughly one-fourth of teens recognize that it’s dangerous to talk or text on a cell phone while they drive, and the same percentage admits to doing so frequently.
- Only one fourth of young drivers say they are very familiar with the Georgia Graduated Licensing Law, and more than half say that the law has had no impact on their driving habits.
“Nighttime driving is at the top of the danger list, but it’s at the bottom of the awareness list,” says Brianna Dickinson, a spokesperson for Teens in the Driver Seat at Duluth High School. “We’re working to change that, because if we can help other young drivers really understand the dangers they face, we can help them drive more safely.”
Teens in the Driver Seat is the nation’s first peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers. Unlike other programs, TDS involves young drivers directly in developing and delivering safety messages. The TDS Program (www.t-driver.com) is available to Georgia high schools through support provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Car crashes kill about 6,000 teens nationwide each year, in what has been increasingly described as an “epidemic” in recent years. Researchers say the crashes are caused primarily by inexperience combined with one or more of five risk factors, in this order of frequency: driving at night, distractions (cell phones/texting and other teen passengers, etc.), speeding, low seat belt use, and alcohol. Fewer than 35 percent of the students surveyed could name three of the risks correctly, 9 percent were able to name four, and fewer than 1 percent could name all five.
Duluth High School is the first in Georgia to launch the TDS program, and program officials say they hope other schools will soon follow.
TDS was originally started in Texas. An analysis at several Texas schools shows the TDS program to be effective in changing young driver behavior. Cell phone use by drivers at those schools dropped by 30 percent after students became active in the cause. In addition, seat belt use increased by about 10 percent at those schools.