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State Highway Safety Showcase

Utah’s Teen Driving Task Force

Utah Highway Safety Office

Across the country, motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. In Utah, teenage drivers represented 7.4% of the licensed drivers in 2005, yet they were involved in over one-quarter (26.8%) of all motor vehicle crashes. In addition, one out of six (17.9%) fatal crashes involved a teenage driver and three out of five teen drivers and their passengers (61.1%) killed in crashes were unbelted. 

Don't Drive Stupid Logo

Program Overview
Utah’s Teen Driving Task Force was formed in October of 2006 to coordinate activities and develop a statewide program to improve the safety of teen drivers and passengers. For the first time, local, state and private organizations are working together to solve this public safety concern. The task force has representatives from: Utah Highway Safety Office, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Highway Patrol, Utah Driver License Division, Utah Department of Education, Utah Department of Health, Primary Children’s Medical Center, Salt Lake Valley Health Department, Utah Safety Council and Emergency Medical Services for Children. 

One of the first jobs of the task force was to develop a catch-phrase that teens could use to reference traffic safety.  Keeping in mind that non-traditional messages tend to impact teen audiences, the group developed the catch-phrase, “Don’t Drive Stupid.”  This simple message, aimed solely at teen drivers, may not resonate with adults, but it’s a message that certainly registers with teens. Newly created educational materials include a poster, promotional items, and a website. 

To promote the program and provide a resource to schools and other traffic safety partners, a “Surviving Teen Driving” toolkit was created and includes crash data, resources and ideas for traffic safety activities.  The toolkit was presented at the 2007 Utah Driver Education Conference and distributed to schools and other organizations statewide.  

School-Based Programs: Adopt-A-High School Program
Another activity of the task force was to support the Adopt-A-High School program, developed by the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) and the state’s 12 local health departments (LHDs).  A pre-survey at local high schools revealed that only 67% of teen drivers buckled up, compared to the statewide average 88.6%. The LHD’s identified 30 target high schools that had low safety belt use rates and began implementing programs. The UHP piloted a program in one school and found that safety belt use among students increased from 72% to 92% by the end of the school year.   

Rural High School Safety Belt Program: Buckle Tough
Teen safety belt use was targeted to rural communities, since young male pick-up truck drivers are at greater risk of being killed in a crash. The UHSO partnered with the Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) and created the “Buckle Tough” program to compliment the other efforts being conducted in the state. A campaign logo was designed and promotional materials were printed and distributed to rural communities through the network of EMS coordinators.

Driver Training: Alive at 25
To improve young driver training, the Teen Driving Task Force partnered with the Utah Safety Council to implement the Alive at 25 program. The program kicked off in October 2007 in a few target schools with the goal of going statewide in the future. The program is a 4.5 hour driver awareness course developed by the National Safety Council and Colorado State Patrol for young drivers aged 15-24. Alive at 25 focuses on the attitudes and behaviors that affect young drivers and prepares them to deal with dangerous driving habits and situations. 

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