Teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than anyone else on the road. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, with an average of six dying every day.
Fortunately, these crashes are preventable, and safety advocates from around the country are working to combat the high number of teenage victims through educational, interactive programming.
Sarah Beth Dinwiddie, trauma outreach coordinator at Carilion Clinic, dedicates much of her career to reaching out to local communities and raising awareness of distracted driving and its consequences. In doing so, she has to come up with some creative strategies to get her message across.
“One of the more unique activities we do is texting and triking,” said Dinwiddie.
She and her team take adult-sized tricycles to the region’s high schools, set up obstacle courses and ask students to try to complete the course while texting.
“It’s a fun way to show them just how difficult it is to multitask while behind the wheel,” she explained.
Other strategies include playing cornhole with concussion goggles (which simulate the effects of a traumatic brain injury), bringing in a driver or a victim’s family to share their own story and even displaying the wreckage itself to show just how much damage can be done.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, some of the leading factors behind the high number of teen motor vehicle accidents includes distracted driving, driving with other teen passengers, not using seat belts and impaired driving.
Dinwiddie said that since she began working with teenagers, she has also modified her curriculum to include a new message: Don’t be afraid to speak up if a peer or even a parent is not driving responsibly.
“A lot of the kids I speak with report that their parents are the ones more likely to be texting behind the wheel,” she said. “I try emphasize the importance of taking the initiative to speak up and have those conversations—even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first—because all it really takes is a couple of words and these kids’ lives could be changed forever.”
For more information or educational resources, contact Sarah Beth Dinwiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org.