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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

2013 GHSA Annual Meeting Awards program cover 2013 Award Descriptions
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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, media, government agencies, universities, or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2013 Winner: Utah “Don’t Drive Stupid”
Parent Night Program

All 2013 Highway Safety Award Winners

Don't Drive Stupid logo

Recognizing the critical role parents play in helping their teens survive their most dangerous driving years, Utah’s Zero Fatalities program incorporated Parent Nights into its “Don’t Drive Stupid” teen safe driving program. First implemented as a pilot in two high schools in 2011, “Don’t Drive Stupid” Parent Nights bring together driver education students and their parents for an impactful presentation focused on the state’s five most deadly driving behaviors: driving distracted, aggressive, impaired, drowsy, and unrestrained.

The program helps parents recognize the crash risk for teens and the importance of their involvement. It also addresses Utah’s graduated driver license (GDL) law and a speaker who lost a child as a result of a motor vehicle crash shares his/her story. These personal testimonials leave a lasting impression on parents and teens.

In 2012, 20 high schools requested a Parent Night, including Utah’s largest school district, which has made the program a mandatory component of driver education at all eight of its high schools. Additionally, the Utah Office of Education revised the statewide driver education curriculum to include the parent night as a core standard starting with the 2013-2014 school year.

While parents are giving the program high marks and recommend it be mandatory, not everyone was initially on board. Getting the buy-in of driver education teachers was critical, since the program typically isn’t mandatory and is conducted in the evenings. To bolster this audience’s understanding of the importance and value of the program, the teachers involved in the pilot shared their experience at a statewide driver education conference, along with video clips of reactions from parents.

Another challenge was having sufficient staff to facilitate a Parent Night at locations across a state that spans 85,000 square miles. The Zero Fatalities program had only three trained presenters, with already busy outreach and presentation schedules. Working with local health departments, health educators were recruited and trained, bolstering the ranks by an additional 12 presenters and ensuring that Parent Nights can be provided in the rural parts of the state.

To date, 6,975 students and parents have been educated through 31 “Don’t Drive Stupid” Parent Nights. A printed parent guide was developed and made available to thousands of parents, providing an easy reference for the state’s complex GDL law. Based on requests from teens and parents who attended the presentation, a new “Don’t Drive Stupid” website featuring the stories, videos and statistics cited at Parent Nights, was launched to expand the program’s reach statewide.

To measure the program’s impact, the Zero Fatalities team uses four criteria: teen drivers involved in fatal crashes; changes in parental awareness (determined through pre- and post-tests); feedback from parents, teens and driver education instructors; and the number of parent night requests. While the Parent Nights are just one element of Utah’s effort to reach zero fatalities, they are contributing to the reduction in fatalities. Since the Parent Nights were first implemented, the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes has declined 17 percent. Overall, traffic fatalities have declined 23 percent in Utah since the advent of the Zero Fatalities program in 2006. Since the implementation of the GDL in 1996, teen driving deaths have dropped more than 60 percent: Parent Nights work hand-in hand with that law.

Parents’ understanding of the GDL restrictions for teen drivers increased significantly after participation in a Parent Night. For example, parents’ awareness of how many supervised practice driving hours their teen must log before obtaining a license increased from 74 percent to 99 percent, a 33.7 percent increase. But the most startling gains – 200 percent and 81 percent, respectively – were made in parents’ awareness of the nighttime driving and passenger restrictions. Both are critical provisions proven to prevent teen crashes and safe lives.

The Zero Fatalities team gives a Parent Night presentation only if requested by a school. Since the program’s inception, requests have grown 675 percent. Clearly, schools are recognizing the importance of these powerful presentations and parents are jumping on the bandwagon.

“There is nothing that could have been more important to do tonight from 7 to 8:30,” wrote one parent. “[My daughter] is fortunate to get these reminders of the importance of safe driving while she is in her driver’s ed class. But I realize I am the one who really needed to hear it. I am a changed driver because of what I saw and heard tonight.”

For more information, contact Robert Hull, UDOT Director of Traffic and Safety, at 801-965-4273 or rhull@utah.gov.