National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 16–22.
October 13, 2011
Billboards across Virginia, posters in high schools, YouTube, Facebook, and a music video that drives home a haunting message–these are the tools that anchor a statewide media campaign to address the problem of young drivers texting or using their cell phones while driving. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed
on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. National Teen Driver Safety Week
, October 16–22, is expected to bring additional attention to this issue. A National Summit on Teen Distracted Driving
is scheduled for October 17 in Washington, D.C.
Partners for Safe Teen Driving
(PFSTD) launched its media campaign with the first official showing of the music video, “It Can Wait,” at the Prince William County School (PWCS) Board meeting on October 5. PFSTD program director Ben Swecker, who is also the PWCS supervisor of Media Production Services, is using social media to spread the message, encouraging teens to forward the music video on YouTube to all their Facebook friends.
Travis Tucker, a popular math teacher at Freedom High School in Woodbridge, wrote the lyrics and music and performs in the video. Tucker’s message for his students—and all students—is don’t text or call and drive; it’s the law, and if you do, it can kill you. Let those text messages wait until you are not behind the wheel. The video shows teens driving, texting, and then an accident scene with fire engine lights flashing while Tucker sings “It Can Wait.”
Swecker’s staff produced the video for Partners for Safe Teen Driving with the assistance of the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue and the Prince William County Police Department. Partners for Safe Teen Driving is a state-funded initiative which helps school divisions provide education and training sessions for parents by giving them the tools they need to help their teens become safer drivers. The program reaches about 40 school divisions and approximately 75 percent of driving-age students in the Commonwealth.
Tucker’s students have taken news of his new music video in stride. Word passes quickly to new students that he was an “American Idol” finalist (in 2005), so they know of his passion for music. Some of his performances are on YouTube.
“All the reactions have been really great so far,” Tucker said of the texting and driving video. “Most of the students just think it's cool that I was in a music video. They haven't mentioned the message of the song much yet. I have heard some singing the chorus; other students force the phrase "it can wait" as the response to any question just to tease me. Either way, they are talking about it. The more they talk about it, the more likely they are to remember it if they get a text message while they're driving,” he said.
Tucker has collaborated with the School Division’s Media Production Services in the past. He was the master of ceremonies for the PWCS staff and student recognition program the last two years.
“I took on the project because I feel this is an incredibly important issue with teens; adults too. Texting is practically second nature for many young people today. Responding to a text is simply not worth risking a life. The text message can wait,” Tucker said.
The PWCS driver education parent program and classroom instruction program both address the issue of texting and distraction “with emphasis; it is something that is part of our society,” said Fred Milbert, supervisor of Health, Physical Education, Driver Education, JROTC, and Athletics.
“It is something that if not checked can have disastrous results, not only for drivers, but passengers and pedestrians in the community. In our mandatory parent meetings, parents are encouraged to be attentive and aware of students' activities while driving,” said Milbert.
The PWCS driver education Web site
has links to resources and programs that parents can use to help them monitor their teen drivers and their activities, including numerous cell phone applications, such as texting-auto response, GPS-activated text/call shutdown, automatic call forwarding to voicemail, and more.
PFSTD is a community health initiative designed to educate parents about what they can do to better prepare their teenagers for driving. It is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Virginia Department of Education, Virginia State Police, Lamar Advertising and Prince William County Public Schools.