Every year, about 6,000 U.S. teens die each year in car crashes. In Texas, it is a leading problem with over 500 deaths every year. With this being an all-too-common pattern, the McAllen ISD Police Department invited Teens in the Driver Seat to come speak last week to a room filled with McAllen ISD students about the driving safety program.

Teens in the Driver Seat is a peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers. The program began in 2002 and is the first program to involve teens in developing and delivering safety messages to their peers. The program focuses on the five major risks for teen drivers: driving at night, speeding, distractions, not wearing a seat belt and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Officer Rhonda Rodriguez said their goal is to help reduce fatalities and accidents in the area.

Mike Zamora, Corporal for the McAllen Independent School District, said spring break is fast approaching and this is a way to show students how to be aware of their surroundings.

“It is important to have this for young people,” Zamora said. “We want them to know their autos and we want them to be aware of their surroundings.”

Krizia Martinez, Teens in the Driver Seat representative, said many programs focus just on drinking and driving and not on the other major risk factors of driving. “We want to be proactive, before something happens on the road we want to show the dangers of driving,” she said.

The program is funded by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Institute.

According to the TDS Web site, an estimated 482 U.S. teens will die in car crash deaths.

More than 215 schools in Texas have implemented the TDS programs. La Joya Independent School District is the only school in the Valley to have a chapter.

Martinez said schools that have implemented the program have decreased teen crash deaths because students learn to be more aware of driver safety.

For more information on how to start a Teens in the Driver Seat program go to www.t-driver.com.