The U in the Driver Seat (UDS) Program at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) held its annual U in the Driver Seat Symposium in Richardson, Texas, April 6-7, 2018. With the support of the Texas Department of Transportation and private entities, the Symposium was available at no cost to nearly one hundred college-aged students representing ten different colleges from across Texas.
In 2017, 1,461 young person’s ages 18-24 died on Texas roadways. One-hundred thirty of those deaths were distracted driving related, and 283 of those deaths were impaired driving related (under the influence of alcohol or drugs). As motor-vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for youth and young adults ages 16-24, the UDS program continues to engage college students to care about traffic safety.
“The statewide statistics bear out that college-aged drivers are dying unnecessarily on Texas highways,” stated Russell Henk, program director of U in the Driver Seat and 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.”
The symposium, with slogan Geared Towards Traffic Safety, featured speakers, breakout sessions, and interactive activities targeted at convincing college-aged drivers around the state of Texas 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, Tyson Dever, shared his experience of being in a car crash and empowered youth not to be the cause, but to be the solution to end distracted driving.
With the generosity of our program sponsor,Texas Department of Transportation, registration fees were waived for attendees and each campus that attended the entire Symposium received a travel stipend. 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 being a mindful driver. The top 3 winning videos were produced by Texas A&M Kingsville, University of Texas – Arlington and University of Texas – Dallas who were awarded VR headsets, Amazon Echos and Google Chrome Casts donated by TEAM Coalition.
To conclude the event and recognize schools for their active participation in the UDS program throughout the 2017-2018 school year, an awards dinner was held. Cash rewards, sponsored by our premier sponsor State Farm, were presented to the top three schools, 1) Texas A&M Kingsville, 2) UT Arlington, and 3) UT San Antonio for the UDS Cup competition and students left re-energized to compete for the 2018-19 UDS Cup competition.
Thanks to generous support from the Texas Department of Transportation, TEAM Coalition, and State Farm the conference was a success. Now in its sixth year, the UDS program hopes to continue work with both public and private organizations to tackle the issues of risky driving behavior in Texas.