There isn't a silver bullet to fighting the problem of distracted driving, and it will take a mix of efforts to get the message out and curb dangerous behaviors. In an earlier blog, we discussed how national organizations are working with youths to spread safe driving messages, but there are some smaller groups who have started from the ground up that are also making a difference.
Teens in the Driver's Seat started in 2002 in San Antonio, Texas. The year prior, 10 teens had died in just six weeks in the area and there was no alcohol involvement with these car accidents. In the shadow of these tragic events, Russell Henk from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) decided he needed to do something about it, so he started a grass roots peer-to-peer organization, which is now in 400 schools in Texas and has expanded to California, Connecticut, and Georgia.
To start the organization in a school, all is needed is a teacher sponsor, then TTI provides a promotional kit to use at school events. The website has posters and videos, as well. Two years ago they added middle schools to the program to reach young passengers to have them become safety advocates for mom and dad or older siblings driving.
To reach young people, Henk finds that "testimonials ring truer and are more effective" than blood and gore videos. He says positive messaging works--85-90 percent of kids aren't doing it, so "be cool."
Stay Alive...Just Drive (SAJD) based in Fort Myers, Florida, began in 2006 as a grass-roots campaign with seminars on the dangers of unsafe driving. The program has been nationally recognized and supported by donations from outside the community. It works with local agencies, including police, fire department, hospital, and Red Cross, to reach parents and teens through prevention, education, and awareness. Executive Director Jay Anderson says, safety programs often don't focus on the driving itself, where the teens could truly benefit from guidance on good practices. The SAJD seminars are held free at the county hospital, and they include parents and teens in the training. Anderson says parental involvement is paramount in driving the message home. He is currently trying to expand the program by partnering with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with their group called Project Instead with the goal to expand into high schools, colleges, and universities to reach young motorists with their simple message: Safe driving is not expensive, it's priceless.
These are just two examples of smaller organizations tackling the issue of distracted driving and teen safety in their communities. In an upcoming blog, I'll discuss how teens are getting involved.
See our related reports:
Distracted driving panelists discuss effective solutions
Secretary LaHood speaks at Consumer Reports, launches national campaign against distracted driving
Consumer Reports hosts teen distracted driving event
Families share the tragic impact of distracted driving, learn what you can do
U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports launch partnership to fight distracted driving Teen activist works to end distracted driving
Teen groups work to fight distraction