Addressing the number-one killer of young people in America.
In our second Houston Transportation Series YPT Houston explores one of the many ways the Texas A&M Transportation Institute is seeking to address the number-one killer of young people in America and Texas: car crashes. This article will seek to highlight some of the program oriented efforts of transportation professionals that seek to put the data, research and outreach into the hands of the drivers and communities within Texas.
In 2012, Texas experienced a 10.82% increase in motor vehicle fatalities compared to 2011 resulting 3,399 deaths and an estimated 26 billion dollar economic loss (TxDOT, 2012). Of these deaths, 32.3% involved a driver under the influence of alcohol and 11.3% involved drivers between the ages of 18-25. This age group also has a higher total number of fatalities than 13-19 year olds with a majority of their crashes (60%) occurring on weekends (TxDOT).
Ultimately, research has shown that it takes multiple methods and collaborative efforts in order to create change and that is what researchers at TTI are seeking to accomplish through the creation of U in the Driver Seat a collegiate peer-to-peer program dedicated to ending student deaths due to impaired driving. This initiative was inspired by the highly successful program Teens in the Driver Seat which utilizes positive peer influence, an evidence based practice, among students to encourage safe driving practices among one another.
The UDS program seeks to give college students the tools and information in order to promote peer-to-peer education regarding the dangers of driving which often including driving under the influence. Each program is different as each campus is unique regarding students, cultures, environments, etc. Additionally, UDS does not follow any set curriculum in order to enable students to personalize the program to their own distinct collegiate cultures and environments. Despite the diversity of the program their ultimate goal is the same – reduce the number of college students involved in car crashes.
With the support of the Texas Department of Transportation and the Houston-Galveston Area Council, TTI has been able offer this program free of charge to campuses statewide – many within the greater Houston Region. The support of H-GAC is vital in the expansion of UDS within our region due to the disturbing number of deaths occurring in Harris county alone which, in 2012, had the highest number of fatalities in Texas, representing 10.6% of the overall 3,399 deaths.
Ultimately, it is their goal to expand the traffic safety culture beyond transportation professionals effectively putting the outreach in the communities hands.
If you would like more information on this or similar programs please feel free to contact Lisa Minjares-Kyle who is the Regional Representative for South East Texas.