The Texas Transportation Institute’s Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program has been honored with one of the most distinguished national safety awards available: a Roadway Safety Award sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Roadway Safety Foundation (RSF).
The award was presented to TDS Director Russell Henk during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 5. This is the third national award for TDS, the first coming in 2006 from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the second in 2007 from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).
In pointing out the accomplishments of TDS, the Roadway Safety Foundation said the peer-to-peer safety program “has shown outstanding progress in reducing car crashes involving teen drivers, and stands apart from other programs by involving the teen audience directly in both the development and dissemination of safety messages.” Also, safety foundation officials noted that since TDS was started, the number of teens involved in fatal crashes in Texas has dropped by 33 percent — more than any other state and more than twice the national average from 2003 to present.
“We regard this honor as a validation of our belief that peer-to-peer communication amongst teens can serve as a powerful and positive influence on young drivers,” Henk said. “To some people, that may be a somewhat radical notion. But we have seen that it works. It improves awareness — it changes behavior — it saves lives.”
With expert guidance, the peer-to-peer public awareness campaign is run by teenagers at their high schools. TDS encourages teens and their friends to drive safer by being aware of the major contributors of teen crashes — driving at night, speeding, cell phone use and having too many friends in the car.
TDS has been implemented in more than 300 Texas high schools and has expanded to California, Georgia and Connecticut. Funding support for TDS in Texas is provided primarily by the Texas Department of Transportation, State Farm Insurance and the TTI Center for Transportation Safety. Outside Texas, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mainly provides funding.