7a A newly-formed nonprofit organization, the North Carolina Alliance for Safe Transportation, or NCAST, has launched an inaugural traffic safety campaign. The message is for parents or guardians to make sure the vehicles teens drive include appropriate safety features, and to discourage young motorists from driving distracted.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Every day in the U.S. an average of eight teens ages 13–19 die from motor vehicle crash injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16–19 have a fatal crash rate almost three times as high as drivers ages 20 and older.

According to NCDOT statistics for 2021, in North Carolina there were 49,606 crashes involving teen drivers, resulting in 10,901 injuries and 102 fatalities.

The NCAST ad will run during the 2022 holiday season on social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) and on statewide cable television. It features a portrayal of a mom and daughter discussing the important vehicle safety features, and highlights distractions — such as loud music, snacking, and using a mobile phone — teen drivers should avoid when behind the wheel.

The ad, and links to resources for parents and teen drivers, can be found on the NCAST website, www.ncallianceforsafetransportation.com.

“NCAST was conceived by a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to making North Carolina roads and highways safer for everyone,” said Joe Stewart, vice president for governmental affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina, and initial chair of the NCAST board.

“This organization was formed to collaborate with existing issue-specific safety groups, to amplify and enhance message impact with the very specific goal of changing driving behaviors that lead to crashes, injuries and deaths among motorist, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others using North Carolina’s transportation infrastructure.”

“I am pleased and delighted to be a part of getting this organization up and running,” said Tiffany Wright, director of public affairs for AAA Carolinas — the Auto Club Group and vice chair of the NCAST board.

“NCAST will use research and analysis to figure out who needs to hear the message, and what that message needs to be, given the particular transportation safety issue being addressed.”

NCAST has received a grant from the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program of $272,000 to help cover initial operational and staffing costs, as well as a $50,000 grant from IIANC for the development and placement of the initial teen driver awareness campaign ads.

The organization has plans to conduct other awareness campaigns in 2023, including initiatives around Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, high school prom and summer vacation seasons, as well as Teen Driver Safety Week in October.

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