Live it Up…That Means Belt Up

Two seconds is all it takes to save your life: reach, pull, buckle. This act could not be simpler, yet the seat belt statistics continue to be disheartening. Last year’s national average seat belt use was 87%, ranging from 68.7% in South Dakota to 98.2% in Oregon.  

The reasons cited for not wearing seat belt range from, “they wrinkle my clothes,” to, “I don’t think the government has the right to tell me I have to.” Whether it is pragmatism or principles guiding the rejection of the safety belt, they are excuses that pale in comparison to the lifesaving properties of the seat belt. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury.

During 4th of July weekend in 2013, approximately 2/3 of all vehicle occupants killed in collisions within the California Highway Patrol’s jurisdiction were not buckled up.

When people—especially young ones—die in preventable crashes, the ripple effect is immense. It is not just their family and friends who feel the impact, but also the entire community, including the brave first responders who experience the trauma altogether too often. Impact Teen Drivers’ number one goal is to stop preventable deaths from car crashes. The first component of that is empowering individuals to make the conscious commitment to safe driving to minimize the chances of getting in a crash in the first place; the second component of that: seat belts. If a crash does occur, we want people to maximize their chances of survival.

About half the people who died in fatal car crashes last year would still be alive today had they made the decision to wear their seat belt. Role model good driving behaviors. Lose the excuse. Remember to belt up every ride. It is that simple to keep twice as many people alive.

No Margin For "Oops"

A child sets about consuming his favorite flavor of ice cream, intent on keeping the mint chocolate chip scoop in a perfect sphere as he licks. No sooner has his mother cautioned him to be careful, his tongue jabs too aggressively and causes the sugary mass to fall to the sidewalk with an unceremonious “plop.” His lower lip quivers and he wails, “It was an accident!”

 At Impact Teen Drivers, we make the conscious decision to avoid the word, “Accident,” when referring to car crashes, because it evokes a sort of “Oops” mentality; “Accidents Happen.”

Our overall aim as an organization is to change the culture of driving to one that is distraction-free, and part of changing that culture is choosing to use words that most constructively frame the issue. We believe that car crashes, namely fatal ones, should be regarded as anything but the norm, and our language needs to reflect that.



an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.


(mere) chance, coincidence, twist of fate, freak

But we know it is not a coincidence when a teen crashes her car because she chose to eat her breakfast behind the wheel—she had doubled her chances of crashing due to that decision.  We know it is not mere chance that a teen loses control of his car because he made the decision to text and drive—he was 8x more likely to crash. Go to and spin the Wheel Of Death to see how all the distractions add up to DEADLY.

 As the number one killer of teens, reckless and distracted driving is not something to be idly accepted. Car crashes do involve human error, but the majority of those human errors involve decisions that leave no margin for “Oops.” Unlike your scoop of ice cream crashing to the sidewalk, a fatal crash is not just an “accident.” No conversation, no message, no sip, no song, no photo, no bite, no daydream, NO DISTRACTION is accidental. These distractions are avoidable.    

We must work to evolve the collective attitude about driving, giving every aspect of road travel the consideration it deserves, including the way we talk about it. It is only through this comprehensive approach that we can stop this preventable epidemic.

Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Distractions (It’s not JUST putting the phone away)

 With more and more states passing laws about texting or talking on the phone while driving, today's young drivers are becoming increasingly aware of these phone distractions while driving. Understanding the many other significant distractions is also a crucial part of being a safe driver.

1. Your Passengers

Passengers can become a big distraction. Everything, from your conversations to passing something from the front to the back seat, can take your attention away from the road. As an inexperienced driver, limiting your number of passengers to one or zero is important, and in many cases, the law.

If you do have to have friends in the car (and are legal to do so), how can you limit the distractions? First, make sure that you are not interacting with the people in your car too much. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. If something requires immediate attention, pull over before attending to it.

 Ask your passengers to help you stay focused on the road.—remind them that their well-being is also at stake (remember, 2/3 of teen driving fatalities are passengers).

 2. Snacks

Feeling hungry while driving? Rather than stopping at the gas station and grabbing some chips to eat while you drive, stop, grab some chips, eat them and then drive. Driving while eating increases your odds of crashing by as much as 80 percent. Plus, 65 percent of near-miss crashes can be attributed to drivers who are eating and driving. Eating while driving is even riskier than texting while driving.

3. Adjustments in the Car

Adjust your GPS, seats, mirrors, radio, climate control and anything else before you start out on the road. If you find that these need to be adjusted again while you are driving, wait until you are at a stoplight — or better yet, pull into a parking lot and make the adjustments there.

4. Items in the Car

That empty soda can in your cup holder can easily fall out and roll around under your feet, distracting you and lodging itself under your pedal. All loose possessions need to be stored safely before you start driving.

5. Personal Grooming

Tying your tie, putting on your makeup or brushing your hair are tasks that need to be done at home. Make sure all of your dressing and personal grooming tasks are complete before you start the car.

 6. Roadside Distractions

That big wreck you’re about to pass? If you rubberneck instead of thinking about driving, you could be joining them. If you take your attention toward something on the side of the road, even for a few seconds, you will be putting yourself and those around you at risk. Remember, at 65 MPH you’ve covered the length of a football field in three seconds.

Driving is a big responsibility — take it seriously. Give in to one of these distractions, and it could end in tragedy.  So when you are turning off your cellphone before starting out on the road, remember the many other distractions and make a conscious commitment to avoid them. 

Author Bio:

Mario Cattabiani is the Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey, LLP, a personal injury and automobile litigation law firm based in Philadelphia.  

Operation Clean Slate On Texting and Driving

Operation Clean Slate began in 1993 as a solution to the multi-million dollar graffiti vandalism issue.  Founder, Michael Howard, went to directly to the source of the problem—the youth— to understand why they were doing damage to their own neighborhoods.  Their answers revealed that they were looking for attention, recognition, and an outlet for their creativity.

Michael, an Educator and a Humanitarian, set about formulating a solution to this issue, developing a program that involves youth in hands-on activities, helping them to channel their talents and improve their communities. Operation Clean Slate engages young people in the creation of brightly colored murals that beautify school campuses and communities. 

May 2014, at Phoenix High School in Venice Beach, CA, Michael and his team of students tackled the important issue of safe driving; they painted a beautiful mural with the lifesaving message, “Stay alive. Don’t text and drive.” The concept is simple and worthy, empowering young people to take part in seeking solutions to the issues that most affect them.  

Watch the making of the mural:

Michael reports that it was one of the more logistically difficult projects he’s worked on due to the height and the stairway, but “The students at Phoenix High School were very enjoyable to work with.  Seeing them overcome their fears of going way up the ladder was inspiring. “ He adds, “You could see that the students enjoyed contributing to this meaningful project and worked very well together.  This mural will continue to impact the school and the community with its important message for many years to come.  Remember, like the mural says … Stay Alive. Don’t text and Drive!”

For more information about Operation Clean Slate, check out

For ideas of how you can get involved this summer in traffic-safety-related community service, go to, and we can bring you into the fold!


Technology and Driving Discretion

In-Car Electronics are becoming evermore popular, with about 9 million vehicles on the road already sporting them. According to AAA spokeswoman Yolanda Cade, that number will jump to around 62 million in the next four years.

Unfortunately, with this push to be hands-free, distractions may be on the rise.  Research has shown that talking on a hands-free phone is not significantly safer than talking on a hand-held phone, and researchers are now asserting that hands-free devices that translate speech into text are even worse.  A recent AAA study found that using voice commands to send texts and emails while driving is actually more distracting and dangerous than simply talking on a cell phone.

The danger of driving distracted does not just lie in the act of averting your eyes from the road and/or taking your hands off the wheel; a distracted brain can be undeniably lethal. “Tunnel vision,” when we fail to be fully alert of our surroundings, occurs when we concentrate on a task other than driving—like using speech-to-text systems. 

The conclusion is simple: when you drive, focus on driving. Do not gamble with human life. There is a reason that these devices are not being marketed to surgeons or pilots, and installed in operating rooms and airplanes—there is an expectation inherent in the culture of professionalism that when your life is in someone else’s hands, they will give their undivided attention to keeping you safe. These same expectations should apply to driving because we all have many lives in our hands every time we get in our vehicles. We must change the culture of driving to one that is not hands-free, but distraction-free.

Wango Tango 2014

Wango Tango—an annual day-long concert produced on by local Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM—began as any other day. Just as we always would on a community event day, we awoke early to allow extra time at the event with plenty of time to get there safely. There was plenty of time to arrange our booth just so, proudly displaying our prize wheel next to our prized materials.

 An hour later and the steady activity of setup was supplanted by a swarming mass of feverish fans. People lined up to spin the wheel and good-naturedly leaned in close so we could explain our What Do You Consider Lethal? Program over the loud music and MCing. Even violating the conventions of personal space (under normal circumstances, social graces dictate at least a foot or two), we were all eventually hoarse by day’s end.

 Attendees’ responses to our program were thoroughly cheering— eyes lit up, some asked questions, and almost everyone nodded vigorously. After all, the issue of driving safety is one that truly affects everyone. Everyone has a driving-related concern, a story, or a hope—for a child, a parent, a friend, or simply the sea of strangers with whom they share the road. The Community cares, and events like these allow for a stunning symbiosis.

 We owe thanks to our incredible materials for drawing people in. With everything evidence-based, teen-tested and teen-approved, it was no wonder that our booth was swarmed. People were eager to win a tee-shirt or a poster even before they learned the socially conscious message embedded in the appealing graphics. Once they learned of our program, their eagerness turned to 100% excitement. It was sad when the shirts ran out, but we reminded people that all our resources could be purchased at cost online.

 We stayed through the concert, and hooted and hollered when our Extreme Slacklining PSA played on the big screen in front of approximately 20,000 concert-goers.

It was equally exciting to see our tag, “What Do You Consider Lethal?” running along the bottom of the jumbotron while such big acts as Christina Aguilera and Maroon 5 played.




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Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. In response to this troubling fact, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has partnered with Impact Teen Drivers with a shared goal, to change the teen culture and make distracted driving intolerable. The yearlong traffic safety campaign continues through September 2014.

“Enforcement alone is not the answer – education plays an equally important role in keeping California’s teenage drivers safe,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “We encourage parents to get involved by talking to their teen driver about the rules of the road and by being good role models behind the wheel.”

The teen driver program is designed to provide awareness and education to teenagers, their parents, teachers, and community members about distracted and reckless driving. The ultimate mission of this partnership is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving and poor decision making by teenage drivers.

“It is crucial that we educate teens and empower them to make good decisions behind the wheel,” said Kelly Browning, Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers. “It is primarily through this cultural change that we can eliminate the number one killer of teens in America – reckless and distracted driving.”

Impact Teen Drivers communicates an educational message to teenage drivers using plain language and relevant messages. Most importantly, the program inspires teenagers to commit to being a responsible driver.

The grant-funded Teen Distracted Drivers Education and Enforcement III campaign consists of an education component, as well as teen distracted driver enforcement operations to be conducted throughout the state. Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Distractions can be deadly for teen drivers

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The spring can be a busy time for teenagers with prom,graduation and graduation parties. Whatever the season, teen drivers are twice as likely to cause a fatal crash than all other drivers combined according to the Impact Teen Drivers Program.

The program, presented Monday night by School ResourcesOfficers in Oro Valley, teaches young drivers and their parents about taking responsibility on the road. Distracted driving is responsible for more teenage deaths than drugs and suicide, according to program organizers.

"Kids my age don't have the experience," said Jacob Benzenhoefer,who will apply for his permit next month.

His father, Mike Benzenhoefer, said he knew Jacob should attend the program as soon as he learned about it.

"I don't want him texting and driving," he said. "I don't want him on the phone. I don't want him around friends that are reckless."

Friends in the passenger seats are just as dangerous as other forms of distracted driving like cell phones and the radio, according to the program. The hope is to change the perception of distracted driving, like the appreciation for seatbelts that did not always exist.

"There needs to be a change in the culture," said the olderBenzenhoefer. "People of all ages are out there driving distracted because that's how they were raised."

Craig Reck. On Twitter @CraigReckNews)

How Will You Shape the Future?

Expressing oneself creatively can be nerve-wracking.

Alicia Valadez, who was the grand prizewinner for her Create Real Impact writing entry last year, said she never really knew she was good at writing. She cast her doubt aside to enter the contest though because she was inspired by the prospect of a $1500 educational grant (which she earned) and recognized the importance of the subject: stopping the number one killer of teens in America—reckless and distracted driving.  

We are in the midst of a revolution to change the culture of driving to one that is distraction-free, and it needs young voices. Alicia Valadez chose to enter the contest because she recognized that need even before she herself was a licensed driver. As a passenger, it was easy to see that people were driving distracted, but was hard to understand why. “Why would people still try to multitask behind the wheel even knowing how dangerous it is?” she wondered.

Alicia realized the need to convey something beyond facts and statistics; she realized that people needed to feel an emotional connection in order to really change, so she wrote an evocative piece of fiction—a short story that is powerfully relatable to teens especially.

This emotionally gripping piece tells the story of a young girl driving across state lines to visit a friend, and the distractions that bring about unspeakable tragedy. The reader is privy to her romantic daydreams about the boy she likes, her abrupt reality-checks conveyed through the use of onomatopoeia, and her ultimate appeal to drive distraction-free.  

Read it here.

Cast all your doubts aside about whatever talents you think you lack, and challenge yourself to choose a medium that intimidates you. Whether you choose to write a poem, make a movie, conduct a symphony, or paint a Fresco, you will not only be spreading life-saving messages, but also documenting an important time in our nation’s trajectory.

Remember, history is unfinished; culture is fluid. How will you shape the future?

Birmingham High students get crash course in distracted driving

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As part of a safe-driving program for teenagers, a group of Birmingham Community Charter High School student drivers Wednesday maneuvered a specially designed closed obstacle course to learn the dangers of driving while distracted.

They were part of a demonstration highlighting National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and California Teen Safe Driving Week. The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, Impact Teen Drivers, California Office of Traffic Safety, the California Highway Patrol and the UCLA football team participated in the program. 

“This raises awareness. We’re placing them in a controlled environment,” Officer Edgar Figueroa said. “This time, they’re running over cones. But next time, it could be a person.”

More than 200 local law enforcement agencies will crack down on cellphone users on roads starting today and again on Tuesday, April 17 and 22.

For this exercise, the CHP set up a winding obstacle course in a parking lot where six students navigated the course free of distractions, including parallel parking and hard turns.

“The course alone was more difficult than what I thought it would be, but overall I think I did pretty well,” Birmingham High senior Isaac Moran said. “I didn’t hit any cones.”

“Parallel parking was harder than I was expecting,” added junior Alejandro Pezqueda. “Usually I do pretty good.”

The second ride was rife with distractions, with backseat passengers randomly blaring a radio, shouting random phrases and even shoving a stick of gum in the driver’s face. The student drivers flattened a number of traffic cones that they had easily avoided earlier.

“I don’t know how people drive with distractions on the road,” Pezqueda said after he finished the second drive. ”

Martha Tessmer, educational outreach coordinator for Impact Teen Drivers, and Jeri Dye Lynch both lost sons to reckless drivers, and were at the event.

Dye Lynch, president of Pinecrest Schools, lost her 16-year-old son Conor in October 2010 after he was hit by a distracted driver.

“Hopefully, this raises awareness,” Dye Lynch said. “Every day I see people driving distracted. The biggest distraction I see is people using their phones going down a busy street, like it’s not going to happen to you.”

Adam Poulisse, On Twitter @AdamPoulisse.