Local Schools Participate in ‘Be in the Zone’ Teen Driver Safety Program


While teen driver fatalities have declined over the years, automobile crashes remain the leading cause of death among teens.

Every day in the United States, nine people die from a distracted-driving motor vehicle crash, with six of these deaths being drivers between 16-19 years old.

These statistics are part of the reason Ford Motor Company Fund and Pilot Company along with the Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are working to increase awareness among young drivers about the dangers of distracted driving through the “Be in the Zone” Teen Driver Safety Program (BITZ).

“When school is in session, teens are driving to athletic events, gatherings with friends and part-time jobs,” said Purnima Unni, MPH, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Manager at Children’s Hospital. “Distractions can present themselves in many forms including talking to friends, listening to music, using GPS navigation or texting. These distractions are dangerous because they affect a person visually, manually and cognitively.

“Teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can improve the safety of young drivers. The campaign provides us a great opportunity to spread awareness about distracted driving and the graduated driving licensing law. Overall, it empowers youth to make a real difference in their communities.”

The safety campaign plays a pivotal role in highlighting the growing issue of distracted driving. The goal of BITZ is to address the issue among teens and for them to take the information back to their schools and communities to raise awareness about the consequences of these actions.

This year seven high schools are participating in the campaign to spread the message about safe driving practices with the help of grants from Ford Motor Company Fund and Pilot Company.

“Ford Motor Company Fund continues to be proud to work with Children’s Hospital on teen safe driving,” said Nolan Katerberg, manager of the Ford Fund’s award-winning Driving Skills for Life program. “Driving Skills for Life continues to be an integral part of this initiative, and together we have reached more than 251,000 teens and community members in Middle Tennessee with this safety messaging.”

“The safety of our team members and guests is at the heart of everything we do,” said Meg Counts, senior manager of Giving and Events for Pilot Company. “At Pilot Company, we strive to ‘Fuel Life’s Journeys’ and are committed to giving back to programs like Be in the Zone, which will help thousands of Middle Tennessee students better understand the dangers of distracted driving and, ultimately, make the roads safer for all drivers.”

As a comprehensive, regional pediatric center, one of only four in Tennessee, Children’s Hospital is responsible for modeling safety and injury prevention practices for many other hospitals and organizations throughout the state.

Since 2012, Ford Motor Company Fund has provided support for the program, while Pilot Company is a new partner in 2021.

The unique hospital-school collaborative educates Tennessee teen drivers of the dangers of distracted driving over the course of the school year. As part of the campaign, each school is also tasked with participating in a youth empowerment project.

This year the following schools will participate in the 2021-2022 campaign: Cane Ridge High School, Central Magnet High School, Clarksville Academy, Harpeth Hall School, LaVergne High School, Smyrna High School, Wayne County Technology.

To learn more about the program visit: https://www.vumc.org/injuryprevention/current-bitz-program

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