For the student representatives from 10 Project Ignition National Leader Schools, January 9, 2012 was a day they’ll not soon forget. That’s the day they spent at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. sharing how they and their classmates are positively impacting teen driver safety in their communities.
Project Ignition, coordinated by the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) and funded by State Farm, is a teen driver safety grant program that connects academic goals with teen driver safety using service-learning.
Project IgnitionEnlarge Photo
During the Project Ignition Day, teens got to shadow DOT employees so that they could better understand the agency’s role in national public safety, met with leadership of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and were honored at a special evening reception with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
NHTSA data shows that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and young people across America are becoming more aware of this staggering statistic. Through Project Ignition, teens are engaging their peers through powerful campaigns aimed at changing teen driving behavior.
One of the most dangerous teen driving behaviors involves distracted driving. As LaHood commented during the reception, “You cannot drive safely with a phone next to your ear. You cannot drive safely texting.” LaHood went on to applaud the teen safety leaders by adding, “What I really believe is that you can convince your peers.”
As for the Project Ignition teen safety leaders present, they wholeheartedly agree.
Hope Miller, a student at London High School in Ohio, said, “Not many people understand that texting and driving is three types of distractions: cognitive- taking your mind off the road; visual- taking your eyes off the road; and manual- taking your hands off of driving. That’s what makes it the most dangerous. Knowing the facts can make it real for us. Knowing that we can raise awareness and make a difference is great. You never know who you could impact or whose life could be saved just with a little knowledge and support.”
“We usually only hear about the negative peer pressure to do drugs,” said Nicole St. Onge, a high school student representing Project Ignition in Hoosick Falls Central School, New York. “But there’s also positive peer pressure…that’s what we do with Project Ignition.
“There are so many younger kids that look up to us and say, ‘I want to be like them,’” St. Onge added. “If they see us putting our cell phones away or turning around to say, ‘Hey, can you buckle up, please’ they are more likely to follow in those footsteps.”
Michael VanKeulen, NYLC’s interim outreach director, said the teen safety leaders “made it clear that youth have the capacity and the interest to share the responsibility of engaging young people in this issue and ultimately saving lives.”Photos courtesy of National Youth Leadership Council.