How can we reach America’s youngest and least experienced drivers? Just look in the mirror.
Teenagers may crave independence, but safety research by Toyota and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) shows that parents are the leading influence on how their teens will drive. Not peers, not celebrities – parents. Our children watch us from the start. At Toyota, we like to say that a driver’s education begins the day Mom and Dad turn that infant seat around to face forward. If parents have safe driving habits, they can be hopeful that their children will too – and we can use the power of advertising to help.
We brought Toyota’s efforts together in TeenDrive365, a holistic program that approaches young drivers’ safety from all angles. TeenDrive365 features online tools, expert advice, social media elements, videos, a distracted driving simulator that is taken on tour to events across the country, and much more.
To cut through in a space filled with frightening messages, we decided a bit of levity might be a healthy antidote. Here’s an example: a 30-second PSA we posted on the TeenDrive365 website and elsewhere. You’re at a meeting of “Parents Who Drive Bad Anonymous.” Take a look.
We also featured “Swapping Seats” – a video series in which we invited parents to show off their best driving behavior, and then put their teens behind the wheel to find out what messages Mom or Dad were really sending. And a big favorite on social media has been “Decoded Tips,” a series of pictograms to remind people of basic safety messages in surprisingly challenging ways. Can you decipher this one?
(If you’re having trouble, sound it out. It says, “Leafy roads can be slippery.”)
Our efforts are grounded in what we’ve learned from Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center, which works with leading universities and research hospitals on auto safety research, including projects designed to better understand how to keep teen drivers safe.
The numbers are sobering. Our research with the Michigan team found teenagers admitting to some risky behavior:
- 54 percent reported using a hand-held cellphone while driving.
- 30 percent read a text or email once or more every time they drove.
- 24 percent responded to a text or email once or more every time they drove.
We were inspired by the reaction to TeenDrive365. More than a million people have visited the TeenDrive365 website in the year since it launched, and more than 20,000 have taken Toyota’s safe driving pledge.
This is testimony to the power of compelling stories used to deliver an important message for social good. While digital media have transformed communications, these are fundamentals that never change.