Injury Prevention

RED—Before the Crash

Children’s Hospital’s RED—Before the Crash Program Prepares New Drivers For Big Responsibility

They’re ready to take the driver’s wheel. Or, at least they think they are. But before you let your teenagers learn to drive, consider bringing them to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s RED—Before the Crash program.

“The purpose of this program is to talk with teens before they develop risky driving habits and get tickets—or worse,” says Chris Vitale, Children’s Hospital injury prevention coordinator.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year olds. In 2005, a total of 3,467 15- to 20-year-old drivers were killed and an additional 281,000 were injured.

Steer Teens in the Right Direction

The two-hour RED—Before the Crash program, launched in February 2007, addresses the seriousness of driving an automobile and focuses on teenagers who have not yet started driving or who have just earned their license. The program grew out of Children’s Reality Education for Drivers Program for teens who have received speeding tickets or had other moving violations.

“The program opens the door for discussion between parents and teens,” Vitale says, “allowing parents to set limits and establish rules about driving early in the process.”

For example, Vitale suggests that parents limit the number of passengers teens can have in a car for the first six to 12 months of driving. “For every passenger in the car, the risk for a crash increases,” Vitale says. With one passenger alone, teens have a 40 percent risk of getting in a crash.

The Road to Safer Driving

During the program, Children’s Hospital staff members discuss several topics to drive home the importance of safety to teen drivers:

  • The harsh reality of crashes involving teenagers, including that in 41 percent of them, the driver is killed.
  • Driving behaviors and other factors that place teens at risk for crashes, such as:
    • Distractions, including passengers, music and cell phones
    • Alcohol
    • Medications
    • Not wearing seatbelts
  • The mechanics of a crash—what happens to a car and the human body during a car crash, the force of impact at different speeds and the types of injuries most often suffered.

Finally, teens spend time with crash victims living with the consequences of a car crash, such as Darius Carlins, coordinator of Children’s ThinkFirst injury prevention program, who was 18 when a motor vehicle crash left him a paraplegic.

Parents as Navigators

The program also will offer parents tips for helping new drivers stay safe, including being a good driving role model.

A teen driver/parent contract that parents and teens can review and sign is available. Parents and teens can customize the contract based on their individual expectations and review it periodically to include more privileges or restrictions based on the driver’s performance.

“We don’t want to see teenagers in the Emergency Room,” Vitale says. “We want them to enjoy the privileges of driving for life.”

Where to Attend

RED—Before the Crash will be held on various Saturdays at Children’s main campus in Lawrenceville. To enroll, please contact all Erin Shakoske at 412-692-8580.


For more information about PA Law for teen drivers, please click here.


Last Update
April 24, 2015
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Last Update
April 24, 2015