Car crashes remain the leading cause of injury and death for young persons under the age of 25. Two of the leading causes of these crashes that involve young drivers in Texas are distracted driving and impaired driving (under the influence of alcohol or drugs). The U in the Driver Seat (UDS) peer-to-peer program continues to engage college students — empowering and motivating them to engage each other about traffic safety on their college campuses and in their communities.
The UDS Program at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) held its annual Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, April 26–27, 2019. With the support of the Texas Department of Transportation, State Farm, and TEAM Coalition, the symposium was available at no cost to college-aged students representing different colleges from across Texas and offered prizes for year-long and on-site contests.
UDS, a young adult injury prevention program focusing on motor vehicle crashes, helps students learn about the risks they face behind the wheel and supports them in spreading safe driving messages to their campus and community. This year’s symposium slogan was Be the Change in Traffic Safety, and featured speakers, breakout sessions and interactive activities targeted at educating and motivating college-aged drivers that they have the power to change risky driving behaviors — in effect, to save their own lives and the lives of other drivers and passengers on the road.
Keynote speaker Cara Filler offered an eye-opening presentation on traffic safety and risk taking. Her message inspires people to speak up for themselves and their friends, and to design a life by choice, not by chance. A day after Cara and her twin sister Mairin’s 18th birthday, Cara watched her twin sister die in a high-speed car crash. Her twin sister’s new boyfriend was traveling at more than 100 mph in a 30-mph zone when he lost control of his car. Her boyfriend walked away from the crash — Mairin did not. What Cara gained was a desire to inspire people to live life to its fullest and educate others on the consequences of reckless driving and the difference that good choices can make.
“Our statewide statistics bear out that young adult drivers are dying unnecessarily on Texas highways,” stated Russell Henk, manager of TTI’s Youth Transportation Safety Program. “Our annual symposium informs students about how risky driving behaviors can negatively impact their driving skills and aims to improve those statistics by changing behaviors in a positive way.”
For the third year in a row, UDS partnered with Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management (TEAM), a 501c(3) non-profit coalition recognized nationally for promoting responsible drinking at sports and entertainment events. TEAM sponsored the 60-second video contest where participating schools created a PSA on TEAMing Up to Be the DUDE (Designated Unimpaired Driver Extraordinaire). The winning videos were produced by The University of Texas at Arlington, Texas A&M International University, and Texas A&M University–Kingsville. Representatives from the winning schools were awarded Amazon Fire TV Sticks and Amazon Bluetooth speakers donated by TEAM Coalition.
To conclude the event and recognize schools for their active participation in the UDS program throughout the 2018–2019 school year, an awards dinner was held. Cash awards, sponsored by State Farm, were presented to the top three schools: Texas A&M Kingsville, The University of Texas at Dallas, and The University of Texas at San Antonio for the annual UDS Cup competition; and students left re-energized to compete in 2019–2020. Along with school cash awards, Jacob Martinez, a student at Texas A&M Kingsville, was also awarded a $250 scholarship for his work as a Collegiate Advisory Board member.
Now in its seventh year, the UDS program hopes to continue work with both public and private organizations to tackle the issues of risky driving behavior in Texas.