For the second consecutive year, the overall number of motor vehicle-related deaths increased statewide.
Safety experts were hoping for an improvement in driving fatality rates, especially during the pandemic, which saw a drop in the volume of cars on the road.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s year-to-date report, there has been a 20.1 increase in motor vehicle deaths over 2020, which saw a 3.2 increase over 2019.
Furthermore, the fatalities among teen drivers, ages 13-19, showed a bit of improvement before moving in the wrong direction:
It’s a trend that prompted safety experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to more fervently promote awareness among teen drivers about the negative consequences of distracted driving and reward the hard work of a team of high school students determined to make an impact.
This year, seven high schools spread the message about safe driving practices and attended a virtual Zoom awards ceremony on April 28 to acknowledge what they accomplished during the 2020-2021 Be in the Zone (BITZ) teen driving safety campaign.
According to Purnima Unni, MPH, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention manager at Children’s Hospital, the report points to the importance of BITZ, which addresses the growing problem of teen motor vehicle crashes in Tennessee through outreach, education and a change in behavior among young drivers. The intensive program exposes teens to the potential consequences of texting and driving.
The students initiate teen motor vehicle safety awareness programs at their schools and in their communities.
“It’s so important that we highlight the need to remember to put our phones away, wear our seat belts and stick to the speed limits,” said Unni. “We are very excited to work with these high schools across Middle Tennessee in hopes of encouraging teens to be positive change agents.
“Students spread awareness about the Hands-free Law during a very difficult pandemic. They participated in a PSA and social media competition in an effort to better reach their peers and community members amid a time when in-person learning and gatherings were limited.”
With the help of grants from Ford Motor Company Fund and the Allstate Foundation, the following schools competed in the yearlong campaign: Station Camp High School, Cookeville High School, Marshall County High School, East Hickman High School, LEAD Academy High School, Brentwood High School and Holloway High School.
“Ford Motor Company Fund continues to be proud to work with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt on teen safe driving,” said Jim Graham, global manager, Ford Driving Skills for Life. “Our award-wining program continues to be an integral part of the Be in the Zone initiative. Working together for over 10 years, the effort has reached more than 116,000 students in the Middle Tennessee area.”