Friday Night Live Youth Traffic Safety Summit

Saturday the 14th of September, Impact Teen Drivers partnered with the California Highway Patrol to participate in the Friday Night Live (FNL) Youth Traffic Safety Summit 2014.  We were delighted to offer abbreviated Lead-the-Leader Workshops to the attendees of this spectacular event, and even more delighted to receive such positive responses.

Our standard Lead-the-Leaders Training normally runs two and a half hours and provides the building blocks for student leaders to execute successful traffic safety advocacy projects. Projects may range from elementary and middle school mentorship programs, to parent-teen workshops, to teen traffic safety weeks. They can also choose to get involved with the Create Real Impact Contest, an opportunity to showcase art, music, video and creative writing that addresses reckless and distracted driving. This unique contest offers a platform to speak out and create real impact as well as a chance to earn educational grants for both students and schools. Student leaders can win unrestricted money for their schools if their school is one of the top three schools with the most entries.

With Friday Night Lights Groups already utilizing peer-to-peer messaging and working tirelessly to promote safe driving, this event was an ideal opportunity to support teen leaders by supplementing the efforts already being made. We were so impressed with the caliber of the students in attendance and look forward to ongoing collaboration. 

Create Real Impact Contest Fall 2014 is ON!

Calling all students ages 14-22: 

Reckless and distracted driving is THE number one killer of teens in the United States, and it is a unique epidemic in that it is entirely preventable. As an organization, our sole focus is putting an end to this trend of senseless young deaths, and we work to achieve this through a multifaceted approach. 

At the center of this approach is the philosophy that good decision-making is the antidote—empowering teens and young adults to make conscious commitments to safe driving. First and foremost, we encourage every driver to make the personal promise to give driving the attention it deserves. We also offer a public platform for young people to share their safe-driving strategies though. What does good decision-making look like in relation to safe driving?

Create Real Impact ( is an opportunity to share your solution to reckless and distracted driving through the medium of your choice video, music, creative writing, or artwork. When you share your brilliant lifesaving strategies with the world (by October 10th, via the worldwide web), you also enter to win educational grants.

Check out the website to read all the rules and regulations, but know that there are multiple ways to win (in every category!), including by procuring online votes from the general public. Get all your friends and family members to vote for your entry up to ten times per day, and you can win a $500 educational grant! Rally your peers to enter the contest, and your school can earn $1500 unrestricted educational money for having the most entries! Win the Judges’ Pick of your category and you can win $1500! If you live in California, Pledge2Unplug ( is offering a $5000 educational grant! 

Because I Said I Would

None of us is perfect. Even those of us who are utterly confident that our moral compass points North 100% of the time are still confronted with a thousand little decisions every day. Our lives are essentially made up of infinite choices, some big, some small, and there tends to be a hierarchy; there is usually a “best choice.”

How do we condition ourselves to make the best choice? We consciously commit to making good decisions.

Our teen campaign, "What Do You Consider Lethal?" (WDYCL) is all about being empowered to be safe as a driver and as a passenger, but it even transcends that; WDYCL is truly a good decision-making program. It is our goal to empower people to become better drivers first and foremost, but also to help each and every individual become a more conscientious human being. We educate about traffic safety, and teach the advocacy skills to spread lifesaving messages, helping teens and adults alike understand the magnitude of their power in making social change.

Because I said I would is a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to bettering humanity through promises made and kept, and we are profoundly grateful to have been invited to attend their national inaugural event on September 6th. This event will showcase inspirational speakers & informative exhibits, and attendees will leave with a refreshed commitment to a life of integrity. We look forward to sharing our engaging & evidence-based program and helping empower attendees to commit to safe driving!

“Everybody’s Doing It"

The misconception of, “everybody’s doing it,” is deep-rooted in teen culture, and can be detrimental if the “it” is something harmful. However, this mentality is not without its use. Young people have credibility with young people. Teens look to other teens for cues on how to act, dress, speak, etc. so why wouldn’t they look to other teens to determine what is and is not acceptable driving behavior?

Although parents remain the number one influencer of teen driving behavior and attitudes, it would be shortsighted to overlook the power of peer-to-peer messaging. It is not enough to just engage parents in the issue of driving safety, because positive peer norms are instrumental to change culture. The more teens see other teens taking a stand against reckless and distracted driving—promoting safe driving (“everybody’s doing it”)—the more they will conceptualize safe driving as a desirable practice and follow suit.

Impact Teen Drivers, as an organization, is pro teen. In every presentation or training, instead of talking at them, preaching or scolding, we work to connect with teens emotionally and empower them to make good decisions as a passenger and a driver. We also leave them with the tools to spread the message—free access to our resources.

Impact Teen Drivers has a multitude of activity and discussion guides to help teens become leaders on traffic safety issues in their community. We offer the Create Real Impact Contest, which hinges on using peer-to-peer messaging to promote solutions to reckless and distracted driving. Social media is an important outlet through which to reach teens, which is why we have a Twitter account specifically for a teen audience, and why our contest, Create Real Impact, has on online voting component.

Our ultimate goal is to change the culture of driving to one that is distraction-free, and we believe that a multifaceted approach is the recipe to attain this. Positive peer norming is a key ingredient.

Teen Website: 

Bi-annual Contest Website:

Consider bringing a Lead the Leaders event to your school or community, to train teen leaders on how to fine-tune their peer-to-peer traffic safety efforts 

A Good Habit is Hard to Break

Setting a glass of a recovering alcoholic’s favorite drink in from of him/her and instructing, “Do not drink this,” would be unkind and unreasonable. If someone were trying to quit smoking, the first step to quitting would probably be to avoid purchasing cigarettes. When someone has a problem with a certain substance, he/she might choose to consciously avoid situations in which that substance will be present. The same principles apply for circumventing other risky behaviors, including those done while driving.    

 What distracts you when you drive? If it’s your phone, instead of tormenting yourself with having it in your lap when you drive, why not turn it off and put it somewhere out of reach BEFORE you start driving?

 It might not be your cell phone that distracts you when you drive. For some, it’s food or beverages. For some it’s music. The important thing it to understand what your temptations are, and devise strategies to overcome them. If you are an avid morning latte drinking, it may mean revising your routine to allow for an extra ten minutes to be spent at the coffee shop. If you have fallen into a pattern of craving gum mid-journey, make the conscious decision to pop that gum in your mouth before you start the drive. This way, you’re not grappling with the temptation to make that dangerous reach for it while you’re on the road.

What is always comes down to with driving is CHOICE. Every driver is presented with hundreds, arguably thousands of possible decisions every time he/she drives. If you make enough good decisions in regards to a particular practice, you will form a good habit; the good news about a good habit is that it’s just as hard to break as a bad one. We forget that every time we stop at a red light, we have made a decision to do so. Every time we look both ways before turning into a busy intersection, we made a choice. These choices are so engrained that we don’t even think about them most of the time—now we need to consciously commit to making new life-saving choices. Your distractions, your decisions, your destiny. 

Not So Fast

“Speed,” may not sound like a dirty word to most; it may even sound sexy. “Slow,” conjures an image of a white-haired granny leaned over her walker, ambling at a snail’s pace along the corridor of a retirement home.

When it comes to driving though, especially teen driving, speed is the enemy, and we need to the driving culture to evolve to reflect this. The number on the speedometer can mean the difference between mobility and paralysis, between freedom and prison, and yes, between life and death. The auspicious news is that this significant number is entirely controlled by drivers—their speed is their choice. It is our job, then, to empower them to make smart choices and teach them the nuances of determining a safe speed.

There is no one speed that is lethal. Someone can be driving two miles below the speed limit, and it still may not be safe for the conditions. Speeding means driving too fast for conditions. Period. Conditions could include traffic, weather, or a thousand other external factors, but it also pertains to the driver’s own ability, which has everything to do with experience.

Reid Hollister was in his first year of driving when he died in a one-car crash on a three-lane Interstate Highway. It was dark and the rain had just stopped. Reid went too far into a curve before turning, then overcorrected, and lost control of the car. His car spun until it crashed into a guardrail that crushed his chest.

Reid would have turned 25 this summer, but instead of celebrating with him, his father is commemorating Reid’s life by promoting safe driving to other parents through his book, Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving. The proceeds from the sales of the book support Reid’s Memorial Fund.

Speeding and inexperience is a lethal combination, but through a multifaceted approach that includes educating teens and parents alike, we can save lives.

Going the Extra Mile…Literally

Parents are the #1 influencer of their teens’ driving behaviors and attitudes. Many parents have suffered their fair share of eye-rolls and exasperated shrugs from their teenage children and may be surprised to know this. But from the moment a child’s car seat is turned to face forward, he or she is picking up cues from the driver. It is therefore crucial that we encourage positive role modeling.

Not only do parents have the obligation to become exemplary drivers, but they also are often tasked with teaching driving from the passenger seat as their protégé embarks upon the journey to solo driving. We have all heard parents joke about how terrified they are to drive with their teen while said teen is brand spanking new behind the wheel, but that isn’t that all the more reason to spend those hours helping your teen practice? It is absolutely essential that parents go the extra mile (literally and figuratively!) to make sure they are providing their teens with the tools to stay safe on the road.

Impact Teen Drivers offers effectual Parent-Teen Workshops to provide an abundance of life-saving information and resources to engage parents in their teenager’s driving education.  The workshop promotes dialogue between teens and parents about important driving safety topics, including distracted and reckless driving, seat belt use, passenger responsibility, and state Graduated Driver Licensing laws. 

If you are interested in bringing a Parent Teen Workshop to your community, please contact to schedule one for the 2014/2015 school year ASAP. If you live in California, thanks to the support of the California Highway Patrol and the Office of Traffic Safety, you can host a Parent-Teen Workshop at your school free of charge.


A Story that Never Needed to be Told

There is a reason a family would choose to share the worst moment of their life with complete strangers. The affected family members of crash victims join the Impact Teen Drivers team because it is their genuine desire that no other family ever experience the immeasurable pain of losing a loved one in a preventable car crash. 

Sydnee was just under a month away from turning 18 when she lost her life in a distracted driving crash. Described by friends and family as loving and adventurous, “with a sixth sense for recognizing when someone needed a shoulder to cry on or a word of encouragement,” Sydnee had a future as bright as her personality.  

On the night of October 18th, 2013, Sydnee was driving to a Pumpkin Festival with two of her closest friends in the car. The road was flat, weather conditions unremarkable. Later, first responders would disclose that phone distraction was the singular cause of the crash. Sydnee’s decision to use her phone caused her to lose control of her car, and her decision not to wear her seatbelt caused her to lose her life.

 Sydnee’s remarkable family chooses to tell their story not because it is a sad story. They paint a vibrant picture of an effervescent young lady, whose future ended prematurely, and of preventable causes.  They tell their story because it is a story that never needed to be told—a story about events that never needed to occur. They tell their story to save lives.

Reckless and distracted driving IS the number one killer of teens in America, and it is 100% preventable.

Do not use your phone behind the wheel of a car: no text, phone call, nothing will ever be worth taking your life or someone else’s life.

Wear your seatbelt 100% of the time, and wear it properly 100% of the time.

Take responsibility as a passenger. Be attentive and speak up: everyone in the car has responsibility for making the drive safe.

Share this message, and most importantly, don’t let it happen to you. 

Blood and Gore, Please No More

Research shows that emotional appeal has more impact on changing long-term behavior and attitudes about driving, so we can ditch the guts and gore. Leave the blood to the Vampire TV Shows.

Impact Teen Drivers (ITD) approaches the issue of driving safety in a very different way than the driving programs of decades past, because the culture is very different.

 Some fifty years ago, Alfred Hitchcock’s, Psycho, shocked the world in a scene that would now be considered quite tame and possibly even tasteful. The shower scene with its iconic music syncing with the stabbing and the blood in the bathtub indicates gruesome injury without actually showing a single wound.

All one has to do is turn on the daily news or watch a popular video game to understand why this generation is so desensitized to graphic content. The Internet has further changed the cultural landscape, where an image of violence or death is only a few clicks away. And the more readily available these images become, the more anonymous the victims become, rendering the cause of death irrelevant or inevitable. 

Impact Teen Drivers (ITD) works to reverse this trend by connecting with people on an emotional level thereby empowering them to make conscious changes in their own driving behavior. We do this by sharing the true stories of teens who have lost their lives in 100% preventable car crashes, depicting real and relatable people, their hopes and dreams, and the idiosyncrasies that made them special, unique. Instead of scaring audience members or participants, ITD centers on evoking empathy so that they may connect to the issue on a very personal level. When people become emotionally involved, and comprehend their own role in the issue, they make positive changes in their own life, and are inspired spread the message to others.  

Crash Diet

Distracted driving was an epidemic without a name until 2010 when then United States Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood coined the phrase, but it has had unfortunate staying power in the American tradition. Advocates for safe driving now work tirelessly to raise awareness surrounding this important issue, and the focus is often on cellphone use.

Indeed, cell phones are the new nemesis to safe driving—whether it’s texting, talking, shuffling an iPod, adjusting a route on the GPS, etc., but the issue extends far beyond that. One of the most dangerous distractions is one that sometimes gets overlooked because it seems so second nature to us: eating.

A study conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that eating while driving increases the odds of a crash by a staggering 80%.

As a country, we are so addicted to the concept of multitasking that we struggle to accept that driving is simply a time for driving, and not a time to attempt crossing anything else off the to-do list. In movies, television shows, and commercials how often do we see images of people eating a burger behind the wheel, sipping an iced tea? Not only are we bombarded with images of this in the media, but we also see it in our own lives, whether it is the person with whom we are carpooling or the stranger we see on the highway. Maybe we have done it, and maybe we want to give ourselves a free pass on this one, but we cannot.

It has to stop. No distracted driving activity should get a free pass; they are ALL contributing to the number one killer of teens in this country.

Put the chips away and resist that protein bar. Suffer through the thirst until you can pull over somewhere safe to take a break from your road trip. Change your morning ritual. Coffee is actually the worst offender of them all—it’s piping hot and risks spillage. And if the knowledge that you’re upping your odds of crashing is not enough, the knowledge that car crashes are the number one killer of teens is. Role model good driving behaviors.  Every. Time.