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Taking the boring out of driver’s education: Group of teens jazz up safety, TikTok style

A group of students conduct a seat belt observation test at New Baltimore Anchor Bay High School. Contributed photo (Jennifer Dixon)

Classroom instruction in driver’s training talks about the necessary points and is conducted by hard-working and well-meaning teachers, but to many teens on the cusp of getting their license, it can still feel like a cure for insomnia, at times.

It’s not easy for teens to stay focused during the sessions, and thus, very easy to miss out on learning the critical driving rules and regulations, which is why a group of students at a Michigan high school hope they are coming up with a good alternative to get the message of safe driving out.

The students, who are part of a group called the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), are using social media sites such as TikTok, Facebook and Instagram to post acted-out videos to convey messages about driving safety.

“Kids want something fun, so why not have a fun TikTok video that they are watching?” said Jennifer Dixon, a medical education instructor at New Baltimore Anchor Bay High School and a HOSA adviser. “A person lecturing in driver’s ed and talking over and and over -- with kids, it’s in one ear and out the other. We’re not trying to make it so depressing for kids. (We want) to make it fun while trying to also get the message out.”

One video shows students mimicking a crash while on wheelchairs in the hallway, while another has them going around asking various true or false questions to faculty about driving facts.

The videos are reaching 700 to 2,000 viewers, and it’s not just teens around the school watching and learning tidbits.

Dixon said adults in the community have also left comments on the videos, saying they learned something, too.

In particular, Dixon said, people have admitted they didn’t know it’s not OK to get behind the wheel if taking prescription drugs or inhaling marijuana, even if it’s taken for medical reasons.

“People are saying, ‘Good to know. I didn’t know this. That’s eye opening,’” Dixon said. “We’re getting really good feedback.”

The initiative is part of the Strive for a Safer Drive program, a collaboration between Ford Driving Skills for Life, a program of the Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

Anchor Bay was one of 23 schools across the state of Michigan selected to participate in the program, which gives $1,000 for students to conduct a traffic safety campaign and holds a contest for the best campaigns.

In addition to the video, the group, which has 47 students, has posted signs and messages at stores, restaurants and other businesses throughout the community as part of its campaign to raise awareness on impaired driving called “It’s been declared you shouldn’t drive impaired.”

The group was forced to use social media and sign posting for its campaign because pandemic protocols prohibited it from doing activities at the school that are done in past years, such as creating a test track with drunk goggles and tricycles.

Seat belt observation tests have been done by the students too -- tests in which teens stand on a sidewalk and see which occupants of a car are wearing seat belts as they drive by. The group through its tests discovered 1 in 5 drivers and 1 in 8 passengers don’t wear a seat belt, but the students mostly have been forced to turn to social media to get the word out.

However, by doing so, they might have stumbled upon a more creative way for fellow teens to learn driving safety.

“It’s been going very well,” said John Cooney, a senior who is the president of the HOSA club. “The feedback has been very positive. A lot of people are shocked by the statistics.”

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.