National Teen Driver Safety Week: A Critical Need in Canada

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in Canada.i And, drivers 16-19 are at a higher risk of being killed in a vehicle collision than any other age group.ii But fortunately, teens are standing up for themselves and their friends as advocates for a National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW) in Canada.

A team of Youth Ambassadors from Parachute, a leading injury prevention organization in Canada that partners with State Farm® on the issue, are stepping up to spread the message of teen driver safety with their peers, communities — and even to local governments. Their mission: Get Canada to recognize the need for a National Teen Driver Safety Week, a campaign that has been proven very effective in raising awareness and engaging public action in other countries. In the United States, for example, NTDSW is recognized in the third week of every October, helping to build efforts for long-term change. Watch this SF video supporting NTDSW.

"Just like with anti-smoking campaigns, efforts to educate young people about driver behaviour when they still have a malleable outlook can be very effective," says Jacob, a Parachute Ambassador in Toronto.

The campaign to establish a National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW) in Canada is designed to provoke a positive, empowering change in how young people approach driving – one that sticks with them for the rest of their lives. Helping them make better decisions early, like eliminating distracted and impaired driving, not only helps keep bad habits from developing, but can ultimately save lives.

Clockwise from top left: Parachute Ambassadors Nolan, Caitlin, and Jacob

Making their Voices Heard

One way Parachute Ambassadors decided to gain support is through signed proclamations indicating support of the effort to establish a NTDSW. Parachute Ambassador Caitlin, sent a letter to her city's mayor, Al McDonald of North Bay, ON. "I gave him a whole background on National Teen Driver Safety Week, and got a letter back from his assistant saying that he would be more than happy to sign our proclamation."

Another ambassador, Nolan from Saskatchewan, has secured signed proclamations in his hometown of Regina and the surrounding communities of Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, and Prince Albert. These proclamations are important because they represent community support for the week across Canada.

Nolan also took the message directly to other teens. To highlight how important it is to be alert when driving, Nolan shared information with high school administrators throughout Saskatchewan and provided facts to share during their morning announcements. They emphasized safe teen driving and addressed the potential issues teens face when behind the wheel.

Impact of Alcohol and Drugs

New findingsiii from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) also suggest now is an appropriate time for the adoption of a NTDSW and elevated attention to teen driving issues. The research indicates that when teen driver fatalities were examined in 2000, 40% tested positive for alcohol and 24% for drugs. But in 2010, those statistics had become much closer, with 37% testing positive for alcohol and 39% for drugs. Further, drug-impairment is most common among 18-year-old drivers, and it caused over 54% of all driving fatalities among them. Click here to watch a motion graphic detailing the survey results.

"In addition to the concern of alcohol and drug impaired driving, Saskatchewan has a compounding issue with its roads," says Nolan who also knows the dangers of distracted driving. "Saskatchewan has more rural roads per capita than any other jurisdiction in the world and the roads have their own unique conditions. The grid roads pose a different type of driving challenge that makes distracted driving even more dangerous. If you look down at your phone and all of a sudden you hit some loose gravel, you're going to fishtail."

When asked why she thinks drug-influenced driving seems to be on the rise, Caitlin says that she believes the media has helped make great progress with alcohol-impaired driving, but hasn't yet focused enough on drugs. "Information needs to be shared to bring an equal amount of awareness to both of them, because both are taking lives, especially among teens," she said.

Jacob agrees. "Teens could learn how dangerous drug-impaired driving can be with more media focus. There's a tight correlation between the media saying it's bad and your own perception of it being bad. There's a lot of subjectivity and a lot of underestimation on behalf of people who are under the influence," he said.

Statistics aside, that's why spreading the message and starting conversations about teen driver safety is so important. Through their proclamations and ongoing work with local high schools and their peers, these ambassadors hope to spark greater awareness and change across the country. To make it happen, though, they'll need the support of more than local governments. This is why State Farm and Parachute will continue to work with Canadians and all levels of government to recognize and help mitigate the dangers of distracted driving.


ii Transport Canada