by Dawn Teixeira, President and CEO SADD, and Maddie Seel, 2015 SADD Student of the Year
Car crashes are the number one killer of teens today, and teen drivers are involved in fatal crashes at three times the rate of adult drivers. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), in 2010 seven teens ages 16-19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. Reducing these statistics takes a long-term commitment from everyone involved in a teen’s life.
SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) has been the leading peer-to-peer prevention education, awareness, activism organization working to reduce the instances of death, injury to self or others, disability and incarcerations involving teens behind the wheel for 33 years. SADD was founded as “Students Against Driving Drunk” in 1981 by students in Wayland, MA who were fed up with the high death rate of young people due to drinking and driving (almost 100 per week), and took matters into their own hands. Through a decade of work by SADD and others to raise awareness and advocate for changes in government policy and law, the rate of teen deaths by alcohol on the highway dropped by almost 60 percent. By then however, the type and number of issues teens were facing were multiplying and students asked SADD National to expand its scope to address emerging issues such as tobacco and drug abuse, suicide, bullying and teen dating violence.
While SADD will always strive to be responsive to emerging issues facing teens, traffic safety will always be a priority. That is because car crashes have been and remain the number of killer of teens by a large margin – more than homicide, suicide, alcohol, and other drugs.
A National Progress Report of Safety
Despite the statistics, for many years teen traffic safety didn’t receive attention or funding equal to the challenge, perhaps because there wasn’t a “voice” for the issue on Capitol Hill. SADD set out to change that – mobilizing teens to argue for more focus and resources from federal and state governments. In 2012, Congress passed a highway bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) that for the first time ever, included “teen traffic safety” as a specific national priority for highway safety dollars provided to each state annually.
In 2014, SADD released the National Progress Report examining how states responded to MAP-21 with its new priority of teen traffic safety. The Report consists of a state-by-state analysis of fatalities involving teen drivers and examines state Highway Safety Plans (HSPs) that states must submit annually to the federal government to learn how states are addressing this critically important issue.
You can download a pdf copy of the report by clicking here.
Distracted Driving and Teens
But new research tells us there is still much work to be done in keeping our nation’s youth safe behind the wheel.
“The alarming results of the March 2015 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study tell us that 58 percent of teens involved in traffic crashes are distracted and it’s widely known that car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for young people in this country. SADD and its partners believe that the best response to this community health crisis is a “whole-community” response. That is why SADD is proud to partner with the National Sheriff’s Association and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the “U R the Key” prevention program.” – Dawn M. Teixeira, President and CEO SADD
The first year roll out of the “U R the Key” program will happen through SADD chapters in Madison County (IN), Leon County (FL), and Allegheny County (PA). The “whole-community” approach will include teen-led prevention programming and public awareness events. In addition, students will bring together a coalition from the community to act as a policy task force to review local policies, practices, and ordinances, discuss issues that teens face behind the wheel and make recommendations on how the community can work together to strengthening local efforts.
SADD believes that this “whole-community” effort, duplicated across the country will push the needle in creating real and lasting change and SADD is proud to be at the forefront of that effort. The real heroes however, are the SADD students who take the initiative to join SADD chapters, take control of their lives making safe and healthy life decisions and who are committed to being the positive peer influencers in their schools and communities. In the next segment, you will get a student’s perspective on being part of the “whole-community” dedicated to keeping our teens safe behind the wheel.
The Power of SADD: Maddie Seel
Over the past year, I have had the great honor of being recognized as the SADD National Student of the Year. This position means leading students from across the nation to promote SADD’s mission through program development, planning the national conference, and acting as the student voice of SADD National, but SADD means so much more than a title to me. I became involved in SADD directly because of motorcycle crash, so traffic safety is near and dear to my heart!
In 2012, my brother’s best friend, Adam, whom I considered a second brother, was killed while riding his motorcycle after another driver ran a stop sign and hit Adam from the side. It was something so simple that the other driver could have done to save the life of someone I loved. I decided that no one else should ever have to feel the pain that my family and I did with Adam’s death. It was deeply unfair to me that Adam, who was obeying all laws and abiding by safety recommendations, was killed because someone else did not think that those same laws were very important. However, I knew that if I could find a way to allow Adam to inspire me to help others, then his death would not be in vain.
This is when I turned to SADD. I needed an outlet to talk about the issues I saw and SADD was just that. I quickly became involved in as much as possible. I ran conferences for hundreds of students in my area, worked with health professionals, and began my journey into the world of SADD Nation to create even more, lasting change. SADD has allowed me to make a difference in my world and the world of my peers by creating a safer space for all. My passion began with traffic safety because of my personal experience, but has extended to all aspects of SADD: the dangers of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, anti-bullying efforts, and healthy relationships, to name a few.
Speaking Up and Saving Lives
SADD has the power to give students a voice in their communities and create real change! This power stems from the amazing support system that SADD provides for its students; SADD Nation works as a huge family of dedicated individuals to create this change because we care about the people around us. These experiences will last a lifetime and I know that I have been able to accomplish something great. I have been able to make an impression in the lives of my peers, and that’s pretty powerful!
Everyone has a place in the efforts to promote traffic safety. If you are a student, get involved in SADD to work with prevention efforts from traffic safety experts across the country. If you are a parent, encourage your child to get involved with SADD and set a good example for your child. And if you are a driver, it is your responsibility to make sure that the roads are safe for everyone.
To find out how you can bring the “U R the Key” prevention program to your community, contact Rick Burt, SADD Development Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To educate yourself on the issues and for more information about how YOU can get involved or support SADD’s efforts, visit us at www.sadd.org.