I have been involved in Girl Scouts for the past 12 years and during those years I have dedicated much of my time to community service. My Gold award project was a Peer-to-peer Driving Education project.I chose my project for three reasons. First, automobile accidents are the number one killer of teens and account for 70 percent of teen injuries and deaths. Nationwide, approximately 6,000 teens die in vehicle accidents each year. That is roughly equivalent to a Southwest Airlines plane filled with teens crashing once a week for a year.Second, my state and local community have not escaped the impact of teens being injured or killed in traffic accidents. In Texas alone, 600 teens each year die in traffic accidents. In the last two years, eight high school students in Garland, Texas have died in car accidents. Three of those students were from my high school, Lakeview Centennial High School.Third, my family was personally affected by this issue. In 2007, my cousin, who is only two years older than me, almost died in a car accident. This experience had a profound impact on my family and I. This silent epidemic kills 600 Texas teens and 6,000 nation-wide annually. It is extremely important for this issue to be addressed because I do not want any more of my friends or fellow students to experience what my family went through with my cousin, or worse yet to have their parents identify their child's remains due to a fatal automobile accident.
To determine possible projects to educate teens on driving safety, I first researched what programs were offered by the city of Garland. Each March for the past two years, the Garland Youth Council has sponsored a Teens in the Driver Seat event. The events offers teens the opportunity to drive through an obstacle course and wear “drunk goggles” to simulate drinking. State Farm Insurance has a booth that offers families a ten percent discount for teens that complete the State Farm Steer Clear Program and there are a few give-aways. Overall, the attendance was less than what the city hoped for. Some of the area high schools participated in the program by running their own school booth that focused on a particular driving habit or hazard, for instance driving at night. I too aided in this program by tracking statistics of student attendance by tying ribbons based on school colors on a clothesline to visually display which school supported the program the most. My school, Lakeview Centennial sponsored a obstacle course that demonstrated the dangers of drunk driving allowing kids to wear the “drunk goggles” and walk the course where a student and a squirrel jumped in front of the simulated drunk driver. I really enjoyed the program and used some of the ideas presented to aid my project at my high school like the PSA and give-aways. By directing my Gold Award Project towards educating teens on the dangers of inexperienced driving, I hope to make a real difference in my community and make sure that I do not lose any more of my friends and classmates.
Next, I contacted the Texas Transportation Institution (TTI), a research organization affiliated with Texas A&M University. Their mission is to solve transportation problems through research, and TTI has done hundreds of studies about all aspects of transportation. Over the last several years they have gotten very involved in the teen death epidemic. I learned the latest statistical information on teen driving and its importance. TTI completed many community-wide studies where they surveyed entire school districts that have driving programs and communities that do not. Their statistics indicate strongly that peer-to-peer programs are highly successful. In fact, they are the national sponsors for Teens in the Driver Seat, a program designed for peer-to-peer education on driving.
The community benefited by making inexperienced drivers more conscious about their driving habits. Also, the teens at Lakeview Centennial High School benefited by becoming more aware of driving hazards and making a promise to drive safe.
I used several methods to evaluate my project’s success. The “Prom”ise Poster was a huge success and was signed by 680 students. While people were signing the poster, I passed out Dum Dum suckers as a give-away. A message was attached that said, “Don’t be a Dum Dum Promise to Drive Safe.” These served as a little reminder to keep my peers safe while driving.
My mother was a chaperone for Prom. At the end, the chaperones handed out goodie bags and told each student to drive safely going home. She was very proud when she heard over 25 couples say, "I signed the “Prom”ise Poster, I'll be careful," upon leaving the Prom. While this is not scientific it certainly demonstrates how something so simple like the “Prom”ise Poster can have a positive impact. Going through both Prom and all the various graduation activities and not having any of my friends and classmates be in an accident suggests that I did make an impact on my peers.
For another portion of my Gold Award, I surveyed the Junior and Senior students at Lakeview Centennial High School at the beginning of the school year, then repeated the same survey toward the end of the school year right before Prom, after providing various forms of education in between. TTI helped tabulate the results to make it easier to do the analysis. The survey asked questions about the top five driving hazards for teen drivers, what driving courses they have completed or are now taking, and what behaviors they exhibit behind the wheel. Both surveys were sent to the Texas Transportation Institute of Dallas to be accurately tabulated for results. My volunteers helped distribute about 750 surveys out to all the Junior and Senior advisor classes. On the pre survey, 328 were returned back for tabulation and 259 on the post survey. (See demographics below)
Section 1 of the Survey – Top Risks:
The results display an increased awareness of three of the five top risk factors that teens face while driving, including texting and driving. Additionally, more students were also able to identify all five driving risks. And there was a four percent increase of students who were able to identify four out of the five top risk factors. The results suggest that educational programs work and that peer-to-peer programs are effective.
Section 2 of the Survey – Demographics:
The second part of the survey asked demographic questions about the person taking the survey. Questions included not only their grade and age, but also asked what type of license they have, did they attended a driver’s education course or were they taught by a parent, and whether they took an on-road driving test. This part of the survey also asked if they had a friend or family member who was seriously injured or killed in a car accident. Surprisingly, half of the students answered yes to this question. Most respondents were 16, 17, or 18 years of age and stated they were either a Junior or a Senior. This was exactly the group I was targeting, which is not surprising since that was the group the surveys were distributed to. A somewhat disturbing fact is that most kids surveyed were taught to drive by their parents. Parent-taught teen drivers are 3 times more likely to die in a fatality accident, based on a previous study by TTI. Public awareness and schools should publicize this fact and continue to support driver’s education programs.
Section 3 of the Survey – Driving Habits and what have they done?
The next part of the survey discussed the students’ driving habits. Of all of the students driving at Lakeview, 12% admitted to receiving a speeding ticket. Another 5% have received a ticket for running a red light and 2% have received a ticket due to a seat belt violation. Six students, out of 328 on the pre-survey, risked their life by not wearing their seat belt and received a ticket. Although these percentages do not appear to be a danger, they are. Twenty-one percent, or 69 of the students who took the post-survey admitted to not wearing a seatbelt while driving and 49% admit to not wearing a seatbelt as a passenger. Remarkably, very few kids had an alcohol offense on either of the surveys. GISD has had an Alcohol Awareness program since I was in elementary school. The fact that my survey showed that 99% of the 259 kids who took the post-survey would not drink and drive is amazing and is certainly additional proof that educational programs work. The most remarkable statistic of this section was the 4% decrease in the number of kids that have driven in a vehicle with one or more other teenagers without anyone over the age of 21 in the vehicle. This change may be directly attributable to the flyer I created that discussed the rules for drivers under the age of 21.
It is my sincere hope that by providing additional methods of educating teen drivers that I can reduce at least one, if not more, serious car accident of friends and fellow students. By making my peers aware of the top driving safety issues, it hopefully will teach important life-long lessons that maybe one day they will hand down to their own children. While there is no way to measure this, I feel that my hard work is well worth the effort.
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