Driving the Conversation About Teen Driving

Learned a lot putting 100k on my car in two years. Now I need to share it with my kid.
Learned a lot putting 100k on my car in two years. Now I need to share it with my kid.

Have I mentioned I have a daughter? Why am I mentioning it now? Because she’s 14, going on 16. My blog is about driving. And my daughter cannot. Wait. To drive. This summer when we were on vacation in Maine at my mother’s lake house, my husband and I gave our daughter unofficial driving lessons. We were relaxed, we were in the right location (a quiet lakeside community in a rural area of Maine) and we had time.

So we let her get behind the wheel of our 2010 Volvo station wagon, with my husband riding shotgun. She drove down a one-mile stretch of dirt road and back. That was it, but she was thrilled. And much to my delight, she did pretty well.

However, like many parents of teenagers on the cusp of becoming teen drivers, the thought of our daughter actually driving on real backroads and real highways terrifies me. And it’s not just because car crashes are the number one killer of teens. Or that teens have the highest crash and auto insurance rates in the nation. It’s the distractions.

In a landmark study of 1,700 crasho-DISTACTED-DRIVING-INFOGRAPHIC-570 videos involving 16- to 19-year-old drivers, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distracted driving plays a part in 58 percent of teen car crashes, four times previous estimates from state police. The study, which was conducted from August 2007 to July 2013 in eight states, documented a half-dozen causes of distraction, from interacting with other passengers (15 percent of crashes) and cellphone use (12 percent) to reaching for an object (6 percent).

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times last March, the study used videos from an in-car system triggered by braking hard, cornering too fast or receiving major impact. Based on the findings, AAA launched a nationwide initiative called KEYS2DRIVE, which promotes teen awareness and parental involvement in training teen drivers. It also calls on states to tighten up rules in “graduated licensing programs designed to give new drivers experience in stages, from learner to full privilege,” the article reported.

KEYS2DRIVE makes use of a variety of social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to build awareness and promote dialogue, although engagement seems low across the board. The most significant impact of AAA’s efforts seems to be the influence they’ve had on state legislation around teen driving. In the time since the Keys2Drive program kicked off, AAA has helped push graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws nationwide. Today, 33 states have laws that prevent cell phone use for teens and 18 states have passenger restrictions.

imagesMeanwhile, in November 2014, Toyota and digital ad agency 360i launched their own comprehensive initiative called TeenDrive365, reportedly the largest teen driver safety campaign to date. The TeenDrive365 campaign has a lot of marketing muscle behind it, including national radio; online video; display, mobile and paid social advertising; and high-profile sponsorships. The centerpiece of the program is a slick digital hub with a plethora of online tools and expert advice, but social media plays a big supporting role. The campaign makes optimum use of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and a blog filled with custom content.

According to the program’s blog, TeenDrive365 targets parents based on the insight that “parents are the number one influence on how their teenager will behave behind the wheel – and while parents may think their teens aren’t paying attention to them when on the road, the truth is in fact the exact opposite.”

The Toyota program incorporates a variety of tactics to engage parents of teens, including:

A scene from Toyota's
A scene from Toyota’s “Parents Who Drive Bad Anonymous” video. I’m happy I wasn’t invited.
  • a video titled, “Parents Who Drive Bad Anonymous,” which pokes fun at parents’ bad driving habits as they commit to shaping up for their teens
  • a “Masters of the Wheel” video series, in which race car driving legends discuss the influential role parents play in teen driver safety
  • an online pledge for parents to set a good example for their teens
  • animated GIFs and picture-based riddles designed for parents and teens to share safety tips on social media

In the first year of the TeenDrive365 program, over one million people have visited the website and over 22,000 people have committed to signing Toyota’s safe driving pledge. The results are a testament to the power of great creative and smart social media-based marketing. As 360i states on its website, “Good work doesn’t just get noticed. It starts a conversation.”

As a parent of a teen on the cusp of becoming a driver, I’m more than ready to join this conversation and, frankly, humbled by the work Toyota’s doing. While AAA should be applauded for pushing safe driving legislation, Toyota’s initiative is engaging and undeniably effective. What do you think?