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The statistics are alarming—80 percent of teen drivers own a cell phone, while 53 percent of teens surveyed have witnessed other teens using handheld devices for texting while driving. Teen driver crashes are the leading cause of death for our nation’s youth. The overwhelming majority of these crashes are caused by inexperience or distractions, not "thrill-seeking" or deliberate risk-taking.In 2007, three organizations came together at the instigation of Jon Hamm, CEO for the California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP), to form the unique partnership now known as Impact Teen Drivers. It was organized for the purpose of providing awareness and education to teens, their parents and community members about all facets of responsible driving. The goal was to reduce the number of injuries and deaths suffered by teen drivers as a result of distracted driving. The biggest challenge was to find a voice that didn’t sound like adults trying to talk to kids—or even worse—adults trying to talk like kids.The Impact Teen Drivers campaign was developed as a visual way to help educate parents and teens on the dangers of texting while driving.
Three focus groups of students were conducted in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco. A range of concepts were presented to the student groups. The concepts varied in tone, execution, mood and messaging. Results showed that the teenagers gravitated towards the interactive concepts—puzzles, games, problem solving. They seemed to pay the most attention when they were given information in a way that let them arrive at a conclusion.In 2008 the first Impact Teen Driving campaigning kits were delivered to every high school sophomore classroom in the state of California. This teacher’s kit, designed to be interactive as a way to start a dialog, contains a poster series to display in the classrooms, a probability wheel for students to use to see how fast distractions add up to dangerous situations, a series of three short documentaries focusing on what happens after a teen dies in a car accident (these later were produced as viral videos), and T-shirts for the students. Guided by focus group findings that teens pay the most attention when they were given information in a way that let them arrive at a conclusion, each piece in the kit is meant to end with a question, so as to let the audience arrive at their own answers.
The Impact Teen Drivers campaign received such positive response from teens, educators, law enforcement, parents, and community members that during the 2009/10 school year the program expanded into 27 states.
This case study is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
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Even though the design industry is rapidly changing, the inherent value of design thinking is not. Designers observe changes in behavior, ritual, culture and technology, gathering insights and converting them into tangible, purposeful experiences. To create the ideal studio of the future, we must apply this rigorous problem-solving methodology to our own design practices.
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