Sunday, October 29, 2000

Scares and rewards: Programs try to make safe drivers




By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Scare tactics. Straight facts. Emotional appeals. Visually assaultive presentations. Enticements of a new car and savings bonds. Police and health safety experts are using all these things to get young drivers to be safer.

        Results appear mixed. While the fatal crash rate locally for all drivers is down 29 percent this year, the rate for young drivers remains the same — disproportionately high.

        “I've actually got the bodies in the cars in some of these pictures,” says Cincinnati police officer Dean Ward, who retired from the force in September. “These kids see worse in the movies and TV. The shock value isn't there. Kids are invincible. You're never going to convince them they're not.”

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  - Scares and rewards: Programs try to make safe drivers
        Officer Ward made between six and 10 slide presentations a year to high schoolers, typically during prom season. He used photos from high-profile teen crashes, showing what a head-on collision at 55 mph looks like. With no seat belts.

        Think First Trauma Prevention, a non-profit organization run by Cincinnati's TriHealth hospital group, conducts assemblies at middle and high schools, too.

        It features young people who were involved in accidents, using them to reach teens to whom they can relate.

        For example, the teen driver in the Delhi “hill-hopping” crash in June has agreed to participate, as have the fathers of the two 13-year-olds killed.

        In Clermont, Operation Zero safe-driving awards were founded by the Union Township Kiwanis Club. Police and schools joined.

        Students attend a driving seminar and get points for joining Students Against Drunk Driving, attending additional seminars, and signing a “Prom Promise” with their parents. A drawing is held for violation-free students. They get one entry for every earned point.

        The grand prize is a new car. First place is a $500 savings bond.

        But always, these programs mix in reality with the incentives.

        Officer Ward told groups of teens that, on average, several of them will die in car crashes.

        And he figures that worked because they look around the room.

       



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