In part 1 of my article I prefaced ‘just as teens are easily influenced by bad behaviors it would be reasonable to assume that peer influenced good behavior is also a possibility.’ In the same article I also mentioned that I was myself positively influenced by two of my friends in my teen years. Peer influence does lead teens to engage in new activities and inculcate new behaviors and perhaps attitudes. We often find success when teens are encouraged to build new skills through positive peer influence.
Guided by the same approach, Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation (www.shreyadixit.org) set up the first group of Distraction-free Driving Clubs at three Minnesota high schools at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. The clubs at Eden Prairie and Edina high schools took the lead by initiating two pilot programs promoting distraction-free driving. At each of the clubs two student leaders run the clubs with a faculty member providing the administrative oversight. Membership is open to all grades, from freshmen to seniors, and each club chooses the projects they want to run. The Foundation’s guidelines require that club specify a performance success criteria for each project. The Foundation is currently exploring collaborations with academic and technical experts to help develop credible success metrics for the above criteria. This will allow us to assess the effectiveness of the projects in a reliable manner.
To help define success we strategized a two-dimensional vision, one for the foundation and the other for students as follows.
Design a consolidated distraction Craving Index constituted of different types of distractions with a weighted risk factor assigned to each of them.
Design a mechanism to track changed driving behaviors among club members for each of the distractions.
Target a growth rate for number of clubs established/year
Specify new initiatives started in a calendar year
Create yearly targets for a reduction in the Craving Index at each club
Target and measure member growth at individual clubs
Design new incentives to encourage better driving behaviors
Launch club-to-club contests for reducing the Craving Index
Activities in the clubs include meetings with safety experts from the government, academic community, and private industry to learn about tools an
d techniques that may instill distraction-free driving practices. All club members serve as peer advocates to spread the message to the whole student body at their schools.
The current clubs are pilot programs, models for an approach that we hope proves to be effective. After validating the concept, we plan to replicate them in schools across Minnesota and beyond.
This information is detailed in my forthcoming book, ‘ONE SPLIT SECOND’, due out in April to commemorate the National Distraction Awareness Month. (This article was published as a commentary in the Eden Prairie News on March 17, 2016.)
The Distraction-free Driving Clubs in Minnesota, Part 2