As a part of National Teen Driver Safety Week Oct. 18–24, teen advocates of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) program launched its You in the Driver Seat (YDS) smartphone app, aimed at encouraging safer driving behaviors in young drivers aged 16 to 25. TDS held the app launch virtually via TTI and TDS social channels.
TDS is a peer-to-peer teen driver safety program and part of TTI’s Youth Transportation Safety (YTS) Program, part of the Institute’s Center for Transportation Safety. YTS develops and delivers the nation’s most comprehensive suite of transportation safety programs and projects dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries of America’s youth. A second safe driving initiative, U in the Driver Seat — which extends TDS’s strategies to encourage safer driving among college-aged drivers — is a secondary target market for the app.
In 2017, seven percent of fatal traffic crashes where distracted driving was an issue were teens 15 to 19 years old. A 2018 pilot test of the YDS app demonstrated a nearly 70 percent drop in distracted driving by users.
The YDS app rewards teens for safe driving (defined as driving without distractions — e.g., using their phones for texting, calls, social media, etc. — or speeding). Drivers earn points for safely driven miles, redeemable for gift cards to popular venues like Amazon, Starbucks, and Chick-Fil-A. Drivers also earn safe driving badges and qualify for random reward drawings based on safe driving point benchmarks.
Distracted driving is one of the most common and preventable causes of teen driving crashes. For example, texting and driving causes reaction times to double. Distracted drivers have a harder time staying in their lane and maintaining a consistent speed, often leading to a lack of control and a fatal crash. The YDS app aims to make it cool, fun, and rewarding to drive without distractions. A 2018 pilot test of the YDS app demonstrated a nearly 70 percent drop in distracted driving by users.
“We’re excited about having this tool in our safety program’s toolbox,” stated TDS Director Russell Henk, manager of TTI’s Youth Transportation Safety Program. “Our program has embraced the strategy of rewarding positive behavior for the nearly 20 years of its existence.”
TDS seeks to raise awareness of the five top driving dangers for teens and prevent crashes involving young drivers. The program empowers teens to encourage one another via positive peer pressure to make smarter choices, both behind the wheel and as passengers.
The YDS app is currently available in the Apple App Store and will soon be available for Android.