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July 26, 2014, 3:06 am

State Farm launches safe driving program

State Farm — one of the largest auto insurance carriers in the industry — is going with a softer, gentler approach to spur alertness among teen drivers and also educate them on avoidable disasters on the road.

To that end, State Farm has initiated a nationwide series of more than 300 “Celebrate My Drive” events, in which local celebrities, elected officials and radio stations will join together in block party-styled learning sessions.

Philadelphia will host its “Celebrate My Drive” event on Saturday, September 15, at the King of Prussia Mall, 160 N. Gulph Road, King of Prussia, PA. The event runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and will include a noontime appearance by Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner and a live broadcast by WUSL ‘s Power 99 FM; State Farm will hold safe driving exhibits throughout the day.

“State Farm is launching a different approach to engaging teens on safe teen driving. A supportive and positive approach to teen driver safety may hold the key in breaking through. While scare tactics work with some, other teens can have the tendency tune out. Across the country on Saturday, September 15th, high school officials, safety advocates, local law enforcement, and government leaders will join with tens of thousands of teens and their parents for a celebration in honor of this year’s class of new teen drivers,” read a portion of the event’s summary. “The Philadelphia area will be is hosting one of thirteen marquee Celebrate My Drive events to rally around and support teens as they get their driver’s license and prepare for the road ahead.”

While this put a nice face on the issue, nothing can mask the data which shows teen and young drivers are the two groups most likely to be involved in a traffic accident.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s 2011 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics report find that male drivers age 21-25 were involved in more crashes than drivers in any other age group, representing 14.7 percent of all accidents. Drivers in the 16-20 age group were responsible for 13.2 percent of all accidents reported. Conversely, drivers over the age of 50 accounted for 23.9 percent of all accidents.

And when social media activities such as texting, checking Facebook statuses or responding to a tweet while driving are factored in, those numbers are bound to increase. The results from a joint State Farm/Harris Interactive survey indicated that while the majority of teens tell others not to text and drive, about a third still engage in the behavior themselves. In the survey, 34 percent indicated they had engaged in texting while driving.

The survey also showed a certain anxiousness of young drivers to hit the road soon after obtaining their license. In the survey, 54 percent of teens say they have or will get their driver’s license within one month of being eligible to drive while 43 percent said they would wait slightly, getting their license within two or more months of being eligible. Of those that said they would wait more than one month, teen girls were more than twice as likely as teen boys to state their reason as not believing their driving skills were proficient enough to get full licensure.

However, the survey showed that some young drivers may be getting the message, although not at the preferred rate. The survey found that teen voices count when it comes to texting and that for many teens, the attitude around texting while driving may still be “do as I say – not as I do,” meaning young drivers pick up texting queues from older drivers, and that as a passenger in a car, nearly four in five teens – 78 percent - said they spoke up and pointed out a driver’s distracted behavior.

Once raising the issue, 84 percent said the driver listened and stopped driving distracted.

Of the nearly one in five teens who did not point out the distracted behavior, 48 percent stated they felt the driver could handle the distraction so they did not speak up.

Phillips is hoping to massage those results with this new approach to young driver education.

“For decades, we have relied on promoting the dangers of poor driving habits with negative consequences. Increasing research is showing a positive approach may hold the key with today’s teen drivers. Positive, gain-framed messages are more engaging in the long-term to a recipient,” Phillips said. “Change the conversation with share tactics versus scare tactics on the excitement for the opportunities awaiting the road ahead by obtaining a license.”

 

Contact staff writer Damon C. Williams at (215) 893-5745 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .