Earlier today I had an opportunity to visit Maryland’s Severna Park High School and speak with members of the school’s SADD chapter. They were an impressive group and it was encouraging to hear them talk about their efforts to keep their friends and classmates safe on our roads.
Groups like this are truly making a difference. New data I announced during my visit shows that in 2006, there were two and half million injuries on our highways, down 4.5 percent from 2005.
And the number of teen driver injuries also dropped to 416,000 in 2005. But while those figures are encouraging, it’s still a travesty to see almost half a million teenagers getting injured on our roads. That’s too many broken bones, scarred faces and wounded bodies for any of us to declare victory.
Today, teen injuries make up more than 16 percent of the total number of injuries, even though teenagers represent just 8 percent of the driving public. And even more sobering, teens are dying on our highways at more than twice the rate of the overall driving public.
In the test of life, teenage drivers are failing at twice the rate of the rest of us. That’s a safety grade none of us should be willing to accept.
That is why I announced the launch of a new nationwide competition to develop advertising and educational materials with a fresh focus to encourage teenagers to drive safely. We’re calling on the one group in America that actually understands how to talk to teenagers and knows how to get them to do something different: other teenagers.
With the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the winning message will be broadly distributed to where it can do the most good. As I told Severna Park’s students, we want give teenagers the tools and the voice they need to help their classmates, their friends, and yes even their rivals at Broadneck High School be safer and healthier on our roads.
And I’m asking each of you out there in the blogosphere to help get the word out about this competition. If you know some creative teenagers who might want a chance to develop the next generation of teen driver safety materials, encourage them to visit www.nhtsa.gov and participate.
Thanks for your help, and let me know your thoughts and suggestions for how we can keep our roads and highways safe for our youngest drivers.