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News Releases

For Immediate Release

District Justices Send Juvenile Traffic Violators to Children’s to See Firsthand the Consequences of Dangerous Driving

Teens caught speeding, running stop signs or breaking other traffic laws could spend time at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, learning firsthand the devastating consequences their actions can have.

Children’s Hospital is collaborating with seven district justices from Allegheny County on a new intervention program designed to curb motor vehicle violations by young drivers. The Reality Education for Drivers (RED) Program at Children’s brings teen traffic offenders into the hospital to hear firsthand from crash victims and medical professionals who treat and care for children injured in car crashes.

The first group of teens to participate in the RED Program will attend a one-day educational session from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003. Additional sessions for new drivers referred to the program will be held quarterly.

Participating district justices refer juvenile traffic offenders to the voluntary Children’s program. During the educational session, the teens will watch a video demonstrating the impact car crashes have on victims and their families. The program also includes presentations from physical and occupational therapists, paramedics, trauma surgeons, social workers and injury prevention experts, all of whom have cared for young crash victims.

Following the presentation, the juveniles will meet Darius Carlins, 35, coordinator of Children’s ThinkFirst injury prevention program and a paraplegic because of a car crash he was involved in as a teen. Mr. Carlins, then 18, was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver who lost control and hit a tree. Mr. Carlins was not wearing a seat belt and injured his spinal cord. During the presentation, he describes how the accident changed his life forever.

“This is a powerful program. We aren’t trying to scare these kids, but we plan to be very frank with them about the life-altering impact their careless driving can have on themselves and others,” said Barbara Gaines, MD, co-director of the Benedum Trauma Program at Children’s. “Young drivers often take risks that experienced drivers do not, and we hope this program teaches them that those risks can have tremendous, and often deadly, consequences.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in young people age 15-20, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2000, 348,000 people in this age group were injured in car crashes, and 3,594 were killed nationwide.

Children’s developed the RED Program in collaboration with the district justices with the goal of preventing these types of injuries by educating teen drivers on safe driving practices. The program is comprised of two groups of teen drivers - those who attend the class at Children’s and then take a test on safe driving practices, and a control group who simply takes the test without attending the intervention program. Both groups also will have their driving records checked one year after being referred to the program.

The effectiveness of the program in reducing dangerous driving practices among the juveniles will be analyzed through follow-up surveys and the driving-record checks. After one year, the control group will have an opportunity to attend the class.

“We talk and we lecture, we warn, we punish, we fine and we assign points, but we wonder if they are learning what we teach,” said Linda Zucco, the Plum District Justice. “These juveniles will have an opportunity to hear, feel, touch and see the consequences of risky driving behavior.”

In addition to Judge Zucco, participating district justices are: Suzanne Blaschak, Gibsonia; Mary Grace Boyle, Pittsburgh; Eileen Conroy, Pittsburgh; Leonard Hromyak, Pittsburgh; Richard King, Pittsburgh; and Richard Olasz, West Mifflin.

Editor’s note: Media interested in attending Saturday’s session can contact Marc Lukasiak at 412-692-5016 or by pager at 412-456-1510.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008