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Texas teen crash deaths increased in recent years; state, local leaders working to help

Teen behind the wheel
Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-08 19:15:33-05

WACO, Texas — In 2022, 162 Texas teens were killed in crashes while not wearing a seat belt — that’s more than half of all teenagers killed in crashes throughout the state in that year, according to TxDOT.

“Teen drivers and young drivers are the lowest among seat belt users," said Jake Smith, Public Information Officer for TXDOT's Waco District.

"Click It or Ticket was actually launched over 20 years ago and it’s proven to be effective," Smith said.

"Seat belt usage has improved since its initial launch but we want to get to 100 percent usage — we still have some work to do.”

While that campaign continues to do many forms of outreach to drivers, a nonprofit is also making a difference.

Teens in the Driver Seat is a peer to peer traffic safety outreach program and it's in more than 500 schools nationwide — around 200 of those schools are in Texas.

“We know that peer pressure is a powerful force, so we said why not use it for positive change on those campuses," said Christy Thomas, a Program Leader 3.

Thomas says their focus is on risk factors that lead to traffic crashes.

She says because of their outreach, they’ve seen nine percent more teens wearing their seat belt, and 17 percent more passengers are also wearing their seat belts.

"We’ll work with a student club on campus, we’ll give them the materials, but then they do the massaging to their fellow students," Thomas said.

"It’s not coming from like a top down — it’s not coming from an administrator, a parent, a teacher.”

She says the key to making this all work is teens working with other teens — the people they’re likely to listen to most and that’s helping save lives.

"It’s students talking to one another, equal footing, saying 'Hey, you know when you get in my car, you’re gonna buckle up' — 'Hey you’re going to put the phone down if I’m gonna ride with you',".

This is a free program for schools, so check with your child’s educators to see if it’s already in your child’s classroom.