Teens must understand the role they play in keeping themselves safe and their peers safe behind the wheel. Becoming involved in a teen-led safety group at school is one of the best ways to learn about the issue and spread the word through creative and innovative activities. One of the most rewarding things about high school was my involvement with the school’s SADD Chapter because we did so much to help our peers understand why they needed to make good decisions, on and off the roads.
Schools without teen-led groups can start them. It’s easy!
Here are a few tips for forming successful safety groups at school:
- Find a group of passionate youth. It’s fine to start with just three or four.
- Find an adult to help guide the teens. This could be a parent, coach, teacher, administrator, etc.
- Determine your community’s needs. If there has been a rash of teen-related crashes where a lack of seat belt use was identified, perhaps the group should focus on seat belt use. If cell phone distracted driving crashes have affected the community, a student-led group may make distracted driving awareness its cause. Needs also can be determined through a survey to assess knowledge of a certain issue, or by conducting an activity such as a seat belt check.
- Review the community need and set a goal for the group. Establish what success will look like. How will you know if you were successful? This is a critical step and will be used with evaluation later.
- Brainstorm possible activities or projects that could help your community and help you achieve your goal. For example:
- Work with your physics department and share what happens during a crash to reinforce the need to wear seat belts
- Create a pledge poster and have students and community members sign it to pledge not to text and drive
- Give a presentation to a local middle school educating the students about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving
- Have teens try to text while playing a driving video game
- Create a timeline and production calendar that details completion of projects and tasks for the projects and activities
- Evaluate what resources are needed and the strengths of each team member. Assign work accordingly.
- Establish community partnerships. For example, find ways to engage your local police department, fire department and medical community.
- Implement project/activity
- Evaluate its success
Evaluation is critical
Before launching the project, identify a way to survey your audience to determine their knowledge about the issue. These data will be your baseline. Survey the audience again after your campaign using the same survey. The difference between the two is the impact your campaign has had.
Your evaluation method will depend largely on what type of campaign you are doing. The example above would work for increasing education. If you want to measure seat belt use at your school, you could work with local law enforcement to count use as teens arrive at school or leave at the end of the day. This would establish your baseline. After your campaign, count the teen drivers again. The difference becomes your impact.
Behavior change campaigns should not be one-time events. Look for ways to communicate your safety measures year round. It’s important to critique the program often and restructure it, if necessary.