Teen Driving Program Goal is to Improve Safety

Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) is the nation’s first peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers, involving teenagers directly in developing and delivering driving safety messages.

Nebraska’s TDS peer-to-peer school-based program has grown from five schools in 2013 to 36 high schools and three junior high schools in 2019. Through funding received from the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office (NDOT-HSO) and Drive Smart Nebraska Coalition partners, this program is available to Nebraska schools at no cost. 

“We are really making great strides and we want to continue to grow the program by reaching out to teachers at the local level. This is where the work happens,” said Jeanne Bietz, TDS state coordinator.  TDS schools receive technical assistance, traffic safety materials, and educational opportunities to support the TDS goal of reducing crashes involving young drivers.

The program is an example of teen leadership in action. Teens in each participating school make a difference by discussing traffic topics such as seat belt use, distractions, speeding, night-time, drowsy and impaired driving. Community education and educating peer-to-peer provides a hands-on experience while working toward a common goal: injury reduction due to traffic crashes. 

Success is verified by numbers. The six Nebraska schools that have five years of consecutive data show a four point reduction in the number of students who rode in a vehicle with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, a 10-point reduction in the number of students who drove a vehicle with passengers who did not wear a seat belt, and an 11-point reduction in the number of students who drove without wearing a seat belt.

“While teen drivers make up just seven percent of all licensed drivers across the state, they accounted for 21 percent of all reported crashes in 2017. This program works,” said Mark Segerstrom, NDOT-HSO administrator. “Analysis of the program indicate cell phone use/texting decreased 30 percent at ‘program schools’ as compared to a control group of schools where the program was never deployed.”

To inquire about becoming a TDS school or for more details, contact Bietz at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Injury Prevention Program at 402-471-0361, or at: jeanne.bietz@nebraska.gov