Here is a sobering statistic: car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. Specifically, over the course of this summer, more than 1,000 teenagers will lose their lives behind the wheel.
Causes.com leader Sandy Spavone is passionate about reversing that trend. Through the National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS pronounced as “noise”), Sandy has been empowering teens across the nation to voice their concerns about driving laws that aren’t strict enough. Since 2009, Sandy’s efforts have raised more than $77,000 on Causes.com to fund leadership programs, safety seminars, and conferences that help fuel a new generation of safer and knowledgable drivers.
Sandy knows firsthand the tragic effects of unsafe driving. “My passion for youth traffic safety was really something I wanted to concentrate on because, personally, [my family] lost a family member to a drunk driver. It’s a personal campaign because I don’t want others to suffer from the needless grief we’ve had to go through.” Sandy believes the most effective strategy to increase teen safety is by empowerment: give teens the knowledge and tools to articulate their concerns so they can educate their local communities and demand stronger safety laws.
Currently, the federal Transportation Reauthorization Bill is pending deliberation in Congress and it could affect teen driver safety nationally. As it stands, the bill includes fundamental safety regulations that would be the same for all teens in every state. For example, did you know some states offer 20 hours of driver’s education and other states offer 40? Standardizing how many hours of lessons a student driver takes is a first step to quality drivers. Ever heard of texting and driving? The current bill would make sure distracted driving laws exist in every state.
Sandy’s fundraising success on Causes has been a lifeline for her organization. ”[The funds] have given our programs life.” The resources funded one major strategy to help enact law: getting youth face-to-face with legislators to talk about the laws that directly affect them. “We are able to bring teens to the table and become part of the solution. If you look back on seatbelts or underage drinking, the teens were left out of the equation. They weren’t testifying or empowered to be a part of that. Through Causes, youth have been able to be part of the distracted driving cause from the beginning.”
The results have been overwhelmingly positive: 38 out of 50 states currently have distracted driving laws on their books. Much of that is due to consistent pressure from young people wanting to protect other young people. “Our goal is to empower youth to lead efforts to address youth health and safety issues. When we want to address a concern, we want to do it with youth and not to youth.” Teenagers saving teenagers: that is something we can all root for.