Teens hold the key to helping their peers

Published 5:00 am Friday, January 26, 2007

By Staff
Teenagers may not listen to Roy Cooper, but they do listen to their peers.
That’s why the attorney general has joined the effort to curb reckless teen driving with the “UR the Spokesperson”’ campaign. The issue is a deadly serious one.
A crash this past weekend took the lives of two Johnston County teens who collided with each other, also injuring another teen. Earlier this month, a Union County woman was killed when a teenage driver hit her car head-on near Monroe. The driver will likely face charges. One Wake County high school has seen six students killed in car crashes in the past year, including a crash last week that took the life of one student while a former student faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and driving while impaired.
Car crashes are the top cause of death among teens and young adults. National Highway Traffic Safety data show that on average more than 300,000 teens are injured in car crashes, nearly 8,000 are involved in fatal crashes and more than 3,500 are killed each year. In North Carolina, 304 teens were involved in deadly crashes in 2005, and 135 were killed.
The numbers are staggering, but numbers may not hold much weight with teenage drivers who feel they are invincible.
However, research shows that teen drivers may be more likely to listen to their friends than to adults, which is why the UR the Spokesperson campaign is using a peer-to-peer approach. When it is a friend who speaks up, a young driver will listen because he doesn’t want to damage the friendship or be labeled a bad driver.
With the message “Speak Up,” the UR the Spokesperson campaign targets young adults between the ages of 15 and 21 with public-service announcements and an interactive Web site. The PSAs feature a stereotypical, smarmy, over-the-top spokesperson who appears in the car to deliver safe driving tips. The ads conclude with the message “There is no spokesperson to prevent reckless driving. There’s only you. Speak up.” For more information on the campaign and to see the ads, visit www.URtheSpokesperson.com.