Teen drivers learn strategies for reaching 25th birthday
without becoming crash statistic
A split-second decision can dramatically change a young driver’s life.
The decision to buckle a seat belt, choose not to drink and drive, or look both ways before proceeding into traffic can be made in less than a second. The consequences of making the wrong decision in that instant can be life altering or fatal.
That’s the message Idaho teenagers are learning by way of law enforcement outreach activities and a successful teen driving safety summit held recently in Idaho Falls.
Law enforcement professionals talked about their success with these activities during the 2009 Highway Safety Summit organized recently by ITD’s Office of Highway Operations and Safety.
By sponsoring free motor vehicle safety inspections, conducted by mechanics from local vehicle dealerships, Lewiston police officer Robert Massey said that local teenagers got to know their motor vehicles and LPD officers better.
“We started with the inspection and led into a positive experience with the police, who made themselves available nearby to answer questions and just get to know the kids,” he said. “It was a perfect time to break down barriers between kids and officers.”
Massey and others used the opportunity to remind local teenagers about the dangers of driving impaired, not wearing seat belts and driving aggressively.
Similar safety inspection opportunities have been held in other parts of the state including Boise and Meridian, where the idea began as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week in 2006.
“Our summit panel provided ideas that other officers could take away and make work in their own communities,” said Margaret Goertz, who manages youthful driver activities for ITD.
Split Second was a teen driving safety summit sponsored by ITD and the Bingham County Sheriff’s Office held in Idaho Falls on April 1. That summit attracted nearly 300 students from southeast Idaho who learned about teenage driving issues from experts and ITD professionals and authorities from law enforcement agencies, the medical community, parents and family, youth-driven organizations and others.
“This was a great program for us,” said Capt. Mark Cowley, Bingham County Sheriff’s Office. “There’s definitely been an impact with kids and their parents.”
ITD State Highway Operations and Safety Engineer Brent Jennings and Highway Safety Manager Mary Hunter were two of the event speakers.
The Split Second conference provided students informative general and breakout sessions to attend and a mock crash scene to observe.
Speakers at both summits discussed the value of a new program designed to make young drivers better and safer motorists.
“Alive at 25” is a highly interactive program that originated in Colorado and is currently managed through a joint partnership of the National Safety Council, the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado State Patrol Family Foundation.
A trained facilitator uses workbook exercises, interactive video segments, small-group discussions, role playing and short lectures over four and a half hours to help young drivers develop convictions and strategies that will keep them safer on the highway.
The course is not a behind-the-wheel driving course. Alive at 25 is designed to teach young drivers to be aware of many of the typical driving hazards facing young motorists. The program asks for students to make a commitment to improving their driving skills.
Goertz, a proponent of the program, said that 91,000 young people have participated in the Colorado program during the past 12 years. All have been tracked since participation and only 26 have been killed in Colorado motor vehicle crashes during that period.
In 2007 alone, 36 teenage Idaho drivers were killed in motor vehicle crashes.
More than one out of four motor vehicle crashes in Idaho involve a driver between the ages 15 and 19, according to ITD statistics. Young drivers are nearly three times as likely as all other drivers to be involved in a crash. Motor vehicle crashes continue to be one of the leading causes of death and serious injury to teenagers nationwide.
Cpl. Andy Hitt, Idaho State Police, is one of seven officers in Idaho trained to deliver the Alive at 25 class. ITD reimburses instructors for their time and purchases class manuals for students.
“Demand for these classes is big.” Hitt said. “Every evaluation I read was positive. This is going to be an invaluable tool for us to reduce teen driver crashes and deaths.
“We want to spread this thing throughout the state like a beautiful plant so it will blossom.”