Impact Teen Drivers is everywhere. Preaching the importance of eliminating distracted driving online, in video and print, in the halls of power and in the halls of our local schools. In fact GJEL has helped set them up with a few local schools, where Impact Teen Drivers has spoken at assemblies and helped raise awareness.  You can check out their very cool video competition, which showcases videos teens have made about distracted driving, here.

ITD is also one of the five street safety charities participating in GJEL’s Winter Charity Contest (Vote here!). We interviewed someone from each organization this week, you can read our conversations with MADD California, TransFormCAWalk SF and Safe Moves.

I talked with Kelly Browning, Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers, about her organization, connecting with teenagers and what’s lethal.

GJEL: You try to work directly with schools to connect with kids, I know you do assemblies, but what else do you do there?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: We work with educators, first responders, parents, and health professionals to connect with kids utilizing the Impact Teen Drivers Program.  Impact reaches out directly to schools, PTAs, law enforcement agencies, traffic safety offices, and trauma/injury prevention organizations.

We also work with affected families that have had a loss due to reckless and distracted driving.  Parents are an extremely important component when trying to connect with teens—they are the number one influencer of teen driving behaviors and habits.  Additionally, because peers are such powerful influences on teens we facilitate Lead The Leaders Workshops where we work with teen leaders to champion a teen safe driving message in their communities.

GJEL: You have a big focus on media and creative outlets to engage kids, can you discuss that a bit?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: We believe when you target teens you need to include them in developing messaging.  Contests, such as our Create Real Impact Contest, encourage teens to be part of the solution/messaging and helps us have a better understanding of what works when messaging to teens.  Because we are really working to empower young people to create a sustained shift in the driving culture toward driving distraction free, we want them to be empowered to speak up in a voice that is meaningful to them, which is often social media and creative outlets.

GJEL: Statistics are such an important part of what groups like you do. What are some of the most striking or perhaps surprising stats you use?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: I think one of the most compelling statistics is simply that car crashes are the number one killer of young people in America—and that seventy-five percent of fatal teen driving crashes do not involve alcohol or drugs.  I think most kids feel like it will never happen to them because they would never choose to drink and drive—we have done a great job and continue to do a great job letting teens know that drinking and driving is dangerous.  However, it is time to expand the message to include everyday behaviors that can become deadly when done behind the wheel (for example, fixing hair or makeup, adjusting the radio, talking to friends, or texting).

These are everyday behaviors most of us do, but when we do them behind the wheel they can become deadly.

GJEL: Do you feel like kids are becoming more aware of the dangers of distracted driving? Is that starting to impact behavior yet?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: Yes, I do think teens are starting to become more aware of the dangers of distracted driving.  I think we have a way to go to see a sustained behavior shift in our driving habits, but I think teens are now starting to talk to other teens and their parents about driving distraction free.  Often after facilitating our program, we hear teens and parents say I had no idea how dangerous sending that one simple text could really be—it just isn’t worth taking the chance of losing your life or taking the life of someone else.

GJEL: What changes can be made besides education to influence teen driving behavior? Is legislation effective?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: A strong combination of education and enforcement are always the most effective tools when trying to influence driving behavior.  To be truly effective, we need both.  If you look back at how we got people to start wearing their seatbelts and car manufacturers to put safety belts in every vehicle made, it was through both strong education efforts and legislative efforts.

GJEL: What were some of your accomplishments or big projects this year?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: One of our greatest accomplishments in 2011 was reaching more people with fewer resources.  In the tight economic times, Impact has chosen to continue focusing a large part of our outreach efforts on people/organizations that serve us, such as law enforcement agencies and educators.  By providing training and outreach to these target groups, we ultimately reach more teens, parents, and communities.  Saving lives is what we are passionate about, and doing it by serving those who are committed to serving our communities—first responders, educators, and health professionals…well, that is just a bonus.

We also had a strong year focusing on evaluation of the Impact Teen Drivers Program.

GJEL: More kids than ever are driving to school every day, do you advocate alternative forms of transportation as well as fully focused driving?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: Actually, the trends we are seeing are that more and more teens are waiting longer to obtain their driver’s license—often until after they are eighteen.  Some of the attributed reasons teens have shared for why they are waiting longer is lack of access at their high school, cost, and not wanting to have to deal with Provisional Licensing Laws (GDL) which put restrictions on teen driving time, number of passengers, etc.

GJEL: Where’s ITD heading in 2012?

IMPACT TEEN DRIVERS: In 2012, Impact Teen Drivers will continue to focus on serving California communities through developing research-based materials that are engaging, effective, and relevant to teens and our target audiences.  We will be focusing heavily on our What Do You Consider Lethal campaign (

Want to help Impact Teen Drivers? Go vote to help your favorite them win $1,500!