Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, and teens are more likely than adults to be involved in a fatal crash. That is why it is critical to identify and recognize programs that help teens make better decisions behind the wheel. In 2016, Mississippi had 78 teen fatalities: 40 of whom were unbelted, 20 of which involved speeding, and 18 of which involved impaired driving.
Mississippi’s Teen Driver Impact Program has an innovative method that not only trains teens on how to drive safely, it also provides an experiential approach to make them understand WHY to drive safely. The program, which is housed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is based on the National Safety Council’s Alive at 25 curriculum, and is a collaboration of the medical center, Batson Children’s Hospital, Mississippi Safe Kids, Mississippi Safety Services, municipal and justice courts, the LIFE agency, the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Clinton Fire Department.
Teen drivers with moving violations are referred to the program by local courts. Participants not only hear firsthand stories from survivors or victim families, they also participate in a mock trauma exercise during which they are taped and wrapped as though they have a crash-related injury and then are required to eat lunch while taped and wrapped.
Nearly all teens who participate in the class report that this has changed the way they drive. Self-reported seat belt use for drivers increased from 85 percent before the class to nearly 98 percent after. Passenger seat belt use increased from 78 percent to 98 percent.