In 2021, more than 68,000 crashes occurred in Tennessee involving teen drivers. To help reduce these numbers, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) was awarded a grant from Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) and GHSA to educate and promote safe teen driving behavior through a series of in-person events in conjunction with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Alliance Marketing and State Farm to connect schools with teen traffic safety activities.
Events addressed issues of safe driving, speeding, seat belt usage, Graduate Driver Licensing (GDL) guidelines, distracted driving and impaired driving across Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga.
Slow Down Tennessee Campaign Events
THSO’s “Slow Down Tennessee” enforcement campaign was designed to increase awareness and enforcement to reduce speeding-related crashes, injuries and fatalities. The funds helped THSO’s “Reduce TN Crashes” program create signs for display at various high schools and in local neighborhoods. The program launched in 2013 to promote and increase the number of safe driving programs in schools by sharing teen traffic safety program information from across the country. Participating high schools were encouraged to personalize their signage to showcase their mascot and/or slogan. In September, during the “Slow Down Rivalry Football Game” a total of 487 students stopped by the event to sign Slow Down banners and participated in one of seven safe driving stations.
- November 18, 2021: A “Slow Down Patriots” press event was held at Oakland High School before a state championship football game. More than 250 “Slow Down” signs were placed throughout Rutherford County, where the school is located, during the three football games with the highest attendance.
- April 15 - 28, 2022: The “Slow Down Tennessee” enforcement campaign was held across the state for two weeks. All levels of law enforcement participated - local law enforcement, sheriff offices, police departments and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. In less than two weeks, 6,782 tickets for speeding alone were issued. Of those citations, 791 were written to drivers under the age of 24.
- September 30, 2022: During the “Slow Down Rivalry Football Game,” a total of 487 students stopped by the event to sign Slow Down banners and participated in one of seven safe driving stations. Signage promoting the event went up two weeks before the game.
Cultivating the Law Enforcement Partnership
THSO partnered with all levels of law enforcement - local law enforcement, sheriff offices, police departments and the Tennessee Highway Patrol – for the “Slow Down Tennessee” enforcement campaign.
THSO also cultivated law enforcement relations by hosting an all-star recognition event for 20 law enforcement officers who excelled in speed reduction efforts within their jurisdictions. The event was held at a Nashville Sounds minor league baseball game and more than 20,000 fans in attendance were able to see “Slow Down Tennessee” speed advertising, banners and live mentions during the event. THSO Director Buddy Lewis threw out the first pitch to bring even more recognition to the campaign and the law enforcement all-stars!
Rule the Road Events
THSO hosted four Rule the Road events to further the “Slow Down Tennessee” campaign by having students participate in a variety of safe driving stations including a seat belt convincer, skid car, drunk goggle interaction, Tennessee Department of Transportation large truck station, SADD chapter station and distracted driving simulator.
The events were a success, with 87% of students surveyed reporting that they will drive more carefully and with more "intent.” Additionally, 90% of surveyed parents reported learning something new about the GDL process, restrictions and/or the Hands-Free Law.
Working for the Same Goal: Fostering Partnerships
THSO compared rates of teen crashes involving speeding from September 2021 to October 2022 and found:
- 2% decrease in overall crashes for teens
- 9.1% decrease in crashes involving teen drivers or passengers
- 6.5% reduction in teen fatalities
In addition to contributing to the decrease in teen crashes, the project succeeded in building relationships with 32 high schools and Spanish-speaking media partners across the state. Stronger partnerships with AAA, SADD, Alliance Marketing, State Farm and Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and Trauma Unit were also a direct result of the grant project.
Involving teens in the planning process revealed the need to engage Spanish-speaking media partners. From April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2021 the total Hispanic population of Tennessee reached 425,815. The teen population, ages 15-19, accounted for 10.5% of the overall Hispanic population. In order to advertise and promote their grant events, connecting with their local Spanish-speaking media proved to be an effective and important way to reach the community.
THSO contributes their successes to a collaborative effort and recommends SHSOs include teens when planning similar campaigns. Their input, suggestions and thoughts enhanced the project’s messaging and outreach efforts and identified additional partners. Hands-on education and in-person events continue to be a receptive platform to influence teen behavior change for the better behind the wheel.