Teenagers might not listen to their parents when it comes to their bad driving habits, but they will listen to friends. That’s the basis for a new public service radio campaign from Students Against Destructive Decisions, now airing in Iowa. Stephen Wallace, chairman of SADD’s board of directors, says the campaign has an unusual, effective approach.
Wallace says, "This really focuses on young people who are riding in cars with teen drivers because research points out that 8 out of 10 teens say they would listen to their friends if they actually spoke up about careless driving behaviors." The PSA campaign is designed to encourage teens to speak up when they feel endangered by a friend’s reckless driving — from speeding to texting and other dangerous behavior.
For more than two decades, he says car crashes have been the number-one killer of teens in the United States. "We know from the statistics that teen passengers are at risk, more so than any other age group," Wallace says. "While teen drivers themselves say they often don’t worry about their own safety, they don’t have that as top of mind, they are very concerned about the safety of their passengers and certainly don’t want to be responsible for an injury or a death."
Nationwide, he says the figures are staggering — more than 300-thousand teens are injured in car crashes each year, nearly 8,000 involved in fatal crashes and more than 3,500 are killed. Wallace says a study from 2007 found that 96 people were killed in Iowa in crashes involving young drivers, between the ages of 15 and 20.
Studies find young drivers are more likely to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns and die in an SUV rollover, while teen drivers are involved in more than five times as many fatal crashes as adults. The PSAs communicate a simple message to teens — if your friend is driving recklessly, say something.
In addition to being chair of the SADD board, Wallace is a school psychologist in Boston. SADD was formerly known as Students Against Driving Drunk. For more information on the ad campaign, visit: www.SpeakUpOrElse.org .