Monday, January 17, 2011

Just the Facts: Jen Ross on Teen Driving

Jen Ross with students

Teens in the Driver’s Seat is a really neat peer-to-peer organization where teens talk to other teens about the cold hard truth of the dangers that accompany driving and how they can prevent accidents from occurring around them. More than 6,000 teens die per year in car crashes, which is the equivalent of one airplane full of teens crashing per week. This program is not designed to scare you into never driving again but instead to spread awareness and promotesafety while driving so you won’t become a statistic.

Jen Ross “went to college to do something in the medicine and health field,” but found her inspiration to work with teens when she realized that what she did as a teen was foolish, like speeding and not wearing her seatbelt. She wanted to spread safety awareness especially since she has become a mother and talking with other mothers who have experienced a loss due to a driving accident. She said, “I’d hate to receive that phone call and know that I could have done something to keep my kids safe.” Jen also states that the most important message is for all teens to know is “to take personal responsibility, the responsibility for you and others in the car with you, even if you are a passenger.”

Jen has the dual title of Research Associate and TDS Regional Representati
ve at Texas Transportation Institute. Her job is to go out and get teens interested in traffic safety. She talks “directly with students about the issues with driving” and when she’s not at schools, she’s “reading the latest traffic and research reports.” She finds out if the sources are credible and forwards the information to let others know.

“Going and spending time with the groups of students” is Jen’s favorite thing about working at Texas Transportation Institute. She states that every group of kids is unique because they come up with different ideas and solutions and have a different outlook on life. Also, the groups of kids attend different schools therefore they see the different issues with driving specifically at their school. She believes that “adults don’t give teens enough credit,” because when they care about an issue they can change the world to make it better.

A story that has recently had a significant impact on Jen’s life was that her aunt lost both of her parents on Christmas due to another driver. Her aunt was the driver and both of her parents were her passengers. Having to bury both parents over the holidays is a devastating tragedy for any family. After this experience, Jen states that, “traffic safety is for everyone, not just teenagers.” She also mentions that if people were to pick personal responsibility many lives would be saved. Savor every moment you have with the people you love, because in a split second they could be gone.

Jen Ross also states "Besides the standard high school program, TDS is working on spreading the messages at a younger target audience (junior high). You may think, why is this important, or why should junior high aged kids worry about Teens in the Driver Seat and traffic safety, when they don't even drive yet? Well, the answer is simple - reinforcement. By talking to children at a younger age about the importance of traffic safety, as both a passenger and as a future driver - we hope that kids grow up making smarter decisions while in a motor vehicle, because they know the dangers and the risks before they start driving. The junior high program that we have launched is called, TDS Junior High - Learn to Survive, Before You Can Drive."

1 comment:

  1. Not bad. Would've been nice to get some specifics about ways she think passengers can take responsibility and ways that parents can teens thinking about drunk driving that can change the world. But I do love the personal anecdote about her aunt and this line: "More than 6,000 teens die per year in car crashes, which is the equivalent of one airplane full of teens crashing per week." Great detail.