Using a combination of the fun and the sobering, advocates for safe driving are working Friday and Saturday to persuade UT Arlington students not only to avoid drunken driving but also to persuade their peers to avoid it.
DWI-related deaths over the last five years for North Texas drivers ages 18-24 are three times the state average for that age group, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Youth Transportation Safety Program pointed out Friday.
The U in the Driver Seat program and UT Arlington Health Services are holding a Peer-to-Peer Impaired Driving Prevention Symposium at the University of Texas at Arlington on Friday and Saturday. Representatives from several major universities and colleges are gathered at the symposium to raise awareness of the consequences of driving under the influence.
Statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation indicate that crash-related deaths involving drivers 18-24 driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are significantly on the rise over the past five years. And DUI-related deaths for the same age group in Dallas/Fort Worth are increasing at nearly three times the statewide rate over that time span.
“The fact that college-aged drivers are dying unnecessarily on our state highways is tragic enough,” Russell Henk, manager of the Youth Transportation Safety Program, said in a statement. “That young impaired drivers in Dallas-Fort Worth are dying at such an increasing rate is truly alarming.”
Henk is director of the institute’s award-winning Teens in the Driver Seat program, which is dedicated to raising awareness of unsafe driving practices by high school students and encouraging positive teen peer-to-peer relationships to promote safer driving behaviors among them. In 2012, the program spawned U in the Driver Seat, aimed at accomplishing the same goals in college-age drivers.
“Experience with [Teens in the Driver Seat] has shown us that peers can be a very effective means for facilitating positive behavioral change in high-school-aged drivers,” Henk said. “We’re applying that model with [U in the Driver Seat] and helping young college-age drivers see how they can keep themselves and their passengers safe when they get behind the wheel. We’re dedicated to reducing these troubling statistics — both locally and statewide — and saving young drivers’ lives. That’s what this event is all about.”
Patrick M. Walker, 817-390-7423