The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and Ford Motor Company Fund (the carmaker's philanthropic arm) have awarded grants totalling $94,000 to the US states of Missouri, Montana, New York and Oklahoma.
The money is designed to support teen-centric traffic safety programmes in economically disadvantaged areas "to create safer mobility journeys for everyone, including non-motorists".
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and the inexperience of novice drivers puts everyone on the road at risk, says GHSA.
Nearly 43,000 people died in crashes on US roads in 2021, a 16-year high - and drivers killed 3,434 people walking in the first half of 2022, which follows a 40-year high in pedestrian fatalities in 2021.
“Today’s teens will be on the road – walking, biking, scooting and driving – for decades to come, so it’s critical they have the resources and knowledge needed to keep themselves and everyone else safe,” said GHSA CEO Jonathan Adkins.
The programmes being funded include:
• Missouri DoT is sponsoring driver education training opportunities for teens in foster care to receive the instruction required to obtain a driver’s licence under the state’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law. There are currently 4,578 teens in the Missouri foster care system, and many do not have the resources or support needed to complete novice driver training. This programme also seeks to increase youth awareness about the dangers of driving distracted.
• Montana DoT is partnering with the Tribal Community programme Safe On All Roads (SOAR), to establish a teen peer-to-peer programme that will produce distracted driving messaging campaigns for Native American teens. The statewide campaign is a call to action to Montana’s Tribal Communities, providing funding for local SOAR Coordinators to develop traffic safety and public outreach in their respective communities.
• New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee will partner with Teen Driving Solutions to bring hands-on driver education opportunities to teens from communities throughout the state in coordination with the Mohawk Valley Refugee Center and SADD. Teen Driving Solutions is a two-day novice driving program that helps teens and their parents understand driving fundamentals such as sound judgement, good decision-making and physical control of any vehicle in real-life road and traffic conditions. Participating teens will receive in-car instruction addressing how to safely handle their vehicle and eliminate distractions along with the importance of buckling up.
• Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) is focusing its efforts on rural roads, which account for the greatest number of driving fatalities among the state’s teens. OHSO is partnering with Oklahoma Challenge (OK Challenge) and Work Zone Safe to provide resources to teen leaders and advisors from the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America and 4-H programs. Teen leaders will be tasked with recruiting their peers to participate in the OK Challenge Safest Driver App contest and complete the online Work Zone Safe education program to promote the use of safety technology and incentivize positive driving behaviors.
“Safety continues to be a key priority for Ford Fund and providing programs like Driving Skills for Life helps to ensure drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are sharing the road safely and responsibly,” said Joe Provenzano, mobility director at Ford Fund. “We’re excited to expand our efforts to help reduce the number of crashes and create safer journeys for people – whether they're walking, driving, roller skating or riding a skateboard.”
Since 2003, Ford Motor Company Fund has invested more than $60 million in the Ford Driving Skills for Life programme, which provides free, advanced, hands-on driver education – including sessions on protecting pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter riders – to more than 1.25 million newly licensed teen drivers in all 50 US states and 46 countries worldwide.