This Story (And Pledge!) Will Save Your Students' Lives
Why are so many teens dying in car accidents? When a writer sent us a pitch with the sobering statistics (today alone, six teens will die in motor vehicle crashes), we became determined to dig deep and find the real answer. The result is our October cover story, which we're releasing in anticipation of National Teen Driver Safety Week later this month. It's a story that we hope your students will never forget.
What we found, with the help of Charlie Klauer, a pioneering driver safety research scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute: It doesn't matter if your students can't get behind the wheel just yet. Helping them understand the power they hold as passengers (whether they're riding with friends or with family) can and will prevent life-changing injuries and meaningless deaths.
If you only teach one article this month, please—I beg you—let it be this one. We have everything you need to get through to your teens:
1. A Gripping Cover Story
In Danger Behind the Wheel, we go beyond the usual messaging (don't drive drunk, don't use your cell phone, etc. ) and drill down into the lesser known hazards that are costing teens their lives. Students will be pushed to consider their personal responsibility as a passenger, and will also learn about the effects of nighttime and drowsy driving.
2. A Riveting Film
Sometimes reading a story isn't enough. We are so very grateful to Speak Up to Slow Down creator Gregg Burmeister, who together with local teacher Tari Costellow, is allowing us to share this extremely powerful 26-minute documentary with you. It tells the cautionary tale of a car crash that took the lives of three teen girls in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Through tears, your students will hear from the victims' parents—and even a few of the crash's six survivors—as they recount a joy ride gone horribly wrong. (Find it under This Month's Videos in our Video Archive.)
3. A Powerful Infographic
Encourage students to study the statistics presented in our The Facts That Matter: Teens & Driving infographic. Then, use our Infographic Research Guide handout to make your own infographics advocating for driver safety. Students will be prompted to pick a topic and tailor it for a specific audience. (For example: Do they think parents text and drive more than teens do? Have them research statistics that will target adults!)
4. A Personal Pledge
We've adapted the Power Passenger Pledge from the magazine to be a printable, reproducible PDF (click the image above to download). Ask your students to think long and hard about the responsibilities of accepting a ride, and when they're fully ready to commit, they can sign their pledge. (Teachers: Please send us photos of your class holding up your signed pledges! We'd love to see them: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
As you teach this story, I also encourage you to challenge the language around motor vehicle crashes. Ask students: Are they really accidents? And does calling them that take away from the personal responsibility we should all feel to keep each other safe on the road?
I look forward to hearing what you think. Please don't hesitate to reach out with your thoughts or comments.