State Highway Safety Showcase
Teens in the Driver Seat
Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) is a peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers that focuses on the five major risks for teen drivers: driving at night, distractions, speeding, not wearing a seat belt and driving under the influence of alcohol. The program has become active in more than 250 schools in Texas, directly reaching 250,000 teens, and has launched in three other states. Studies have shown significant declines in both teen traffic fatalities and the number of teens involved in traffic crashes.
Motor vehicle crashes kill more young people than any other cause, accounting for nearly half of all teen deaths in America each year. Nationwide, the economic cost of these deaths is estimated at $41 billion per year. In response to this growing public health crisis, the Texas Transportation Institute created TDS, the first driving safety program in the U.S. that directly involves teens in developing and then delivering important safety messages to their peers.
The TDS program is available to schools and youth groups at no cost. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) provides the science, guidance and project resources. Unlike previous programs, it relies on teens to design and deliver safety messages. Teens help shape the program and are responsible for implementing it. In 2008, TDS grew to being active in more than 250 high schools across Texas. The TDS program is also being deployed in Georgia, California and Connecticut.
As opposed to relying only on interaction directly with individual schools, TDS has focused on ways to establish new partnerships for the program that would enable outreach to multiple schools and communities at once and garner grassroots support and collaboration with like-minded organizations throughout the state and nation. The partnerships have included groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, National Association of Student Councils, National Association of Secondary School Principals and National Organizations for Youth Safety.
TDS receives public funding from the Texas Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Private financial support is provided by State Farm Insurance - Texas Zone.
TDS has contributed to a dramatic decline in two important measures: teen traffic fatalities and the frequency of 16- to 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes. In each of these measures, the decline in Texas is roughly 33 percent in recent years – a rate nearly twice the national average.Observational field studies show that cell phone use at some TDS program schools has been shown to drop by 30 percent, and seat belt use has gone up by 10 percent.
The most detailed analysis of the effectiveness of TDS reflects Garland, Texas, where all seven high schools in the Garland school district implemented the program. Data showed from the Garland schools showed that cell phone use while driving dropped by 30 percent and seat belt use increased by 10 percent. In addition, crash records show that the city of Garland experienced 12 teen traffic fatalities in the four years prior to launching TDS, but the city has seen only one teen traffic death in the three years since starting TDS. Prior to TDS implementation, teen involvement in crashes of all types in the City of Garland was 28 percent, as compared to 16 percent post-implementation.