On Duty with the CHP: Free teen driver program available

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Traffic collisions are the leading killer of teenagers in America. Nationally, approximately 5,000 teenagers die in automobile collisions, with 10% of those deaths taking place in California. Those are some ugly facts.

Statistics can be dry, boring and hard to understand, but the statistics above are reality.

One of the CHP's goals is to minimize the loss of life, personal injury and property damage resulting from traffic collisions through enforcement, education and engineering.

In my last column, I talked about Start Smart, an interactive class designed to train new drivers and their parents/instructors. In this article, I want to talk about the Impact Teen Drivers program.

The idea for ITD was conceived by Jon Hamm, CEO for the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, in response to the high number of collisions involving teens.

ITD provides awareness and education to teenagers, their parents and community members about all facets of responsible driving. Additionally, the program seeks to reduce the number of injuries and deaths suffered by teen drivers as a result of distracted driving and poor decision making.

This program has become a huge success, expanding by leaps and bounds around the nation. Why is it so successful? The ITD format addresses the problem of teenage distracted and reckless driving on an emotional level.

In contrast to old teaching methods like long lectures or scolding teens regarding bad habits, ITD uses teen instructors, teen stories and teen leaders to address the problem from their perspective.

The program starts with an assembly. For example, at Edison High School we conducted 11 presentations with approximately 100 students per class. In addition, Edison High has a "Distracted Driving Club," where students actively work to identify and warn their peers about driving hazards.

Last year Edison High had a total of 12 teens in the club. At this year's club sign-up day, Edison student leaders signed up 69 new students that either saw our presentations last year or heard about them and want to get involved. I am so proud of those young leaders at Edison for signing up, standing up and making a difference.

As another example, we conducted an Impact Teen Drivers assembly for San Joaquin Memorial High School's entire student body. San Joaquin Memorial students and faculty appreciated the proactive approach of the Impact Teen Drivers program.

As the CHP's community outreach officer for the central San Joaquin Valley, I strive to get programs like Impact Teen Drivers out and available to the public.

If you think this program is interesting, and you want to learn more, email me. If you a have a group of teens, including church youth groups, Scouts or sports teams that would benefit from this training, email me. If you would like to establish a club at your local high school, have the CHP conduct an assembly, or both, email me.

The CHP's mission is to provide the highest level of safety, service and security to the people of California. Programs like Start Smart and Impact Teen Drivers are at the heart of the CHP's mission. Find a venue, give us a call and we will set up an appointment to bring Impact Teen Drivers to your group.

David Singer, dsinger@chp.ca.gov.