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Click here for an interview with UPS Corporate Fleet Safety Manager, Charlie Halfen.

UPS has launched its new UPS Road Code, a four-week teen safe driving course, in ten U.S. cities. In this interview, Don Taylor, project lead for UPS Road Code, explains how this training program evolved and discusses the program’s successes thus far.

Please provide a brief description of your professional background and of your role as project lead for UPS Road Code.

I am a Region Comprehensive Health and Safety Process Manager with 32 years of safety experience. I have an accomplished record working with the district, region and corporate executive teams in designing, developing and executing strategic safety and performance initiatives.

Prior to UPS Road Code, I worked on a state-of-the-art training program for new UPS drivers called UPS Integrad®. The innovative UPS Integrad® training center was featured on Good Morning America and in Fortune and T&D magazines and has received the Alexander C. Williams, Jr. Design Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

The UPS Road Code curriculum was developed collaboratively by the UPS Corporate Health and Safety and Learning and Development departments. The unique, four-week course contains classroom instruction for young people ages 13-18. 

What is UPS Road Code, and how did the UPS Foundation’s partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) evolve?

UPS Road Code is a unique four-week teen safe driving course adapted from UPS’s world-class defensive driving methods. The UPS Foundation is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to teach the company’s safe driving techniques to teens. The UPS Foundation is giving a three-year, $1.5 million grant to the Boys & Girls Clubs to instruct roughly 1,200 teens this year in ten U.S. cities.
 
UPS Road Code is based largely on the same safety training UPS uses with our drivers. UPS volunteers present classroom instructions to young people ages 13-18 at their local Boys & Girls Club on the following topics:

Week 1: UPS’s core safe driving “code” or habits used by all UPS drivers
Week 2: Consequences of hazardous and distracted driving
Week 3: Identifying road hazards on an interactive computer-based game
Week 4: Test driving skills on a simulator

At the end of the final session, students, parents and UPS volunteers participate in a graduation ceremony. Top achievers are recognized with small incentives. Each student receives a UPS Road Code certificate. Parents also receive a copy of the Novice Driver’s Road Map safe driving booklet. 

According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA), in the last decade, more than 68,000 teens have died in car crashes, and 65% of teen passenger deaths occur when another teen is driving. In your opinion, what do you believe is the cause of these statistics?

Many factors contribute to teen driving fatalities, but I will focus on lack of driving experience, unbuckled seatbelts and distracted driving.

Experience
Multiple research studies prove that traditional driver education classes that review laws and drive a few hours on the road are not effective for teaching today’s teens. Many states have instituted graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems that address teen driver at-risk behaviors. Research suggests that the most strict and comprehensive GDL systems are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and non-fatal injury crashes, respectively, of 16-year-old drivers (CDC, Baker, et al, 2007).

Buckled Up
In 2006, the majority (58%) of young people ages 16-20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were unbuckled. Many teens choose not to buckle up because of cultural and peer pressure. Sadly, this is reflected in the number of teen fatalities each year. The UPS Road Code program teaches the importance of buckling up, and several of the teens who have taken the class report that they have changed their behavior as a result. Teens also can be a good influence on their parents.
                                                                                      
Distracted Driving
Distracted teen drivers impact safety. Distractions include texting, talking on a cell phone, listening to an iPod or other loud music, allowing other teens in the vehicle and eating, to name a few. UPS Road Code focuses on teaching teens the consequences of distracted driving.

UPS Road Code provides teens with four one-week sessions of classroom-based instruction and time “behind the wheel” of a computerized driving simulator. How did UPS develop the materials for these sessions?

UPS has been committed to the safety of its drivers and the public for more than 100 years. When you see a UPS package car or tractor-trailer driving along the highway, you are in good company. That is because UPS drivers are among the safest on the road. We place a premium on safe driving and safe work methods. Our 103,500 drivers log more than 3.4 billion miles a year and average less than one accident per million miles driven—an industry-leading statistic that earned us the nation’s highest safety award, the Green Cross for Safety. Whether it is the 4,700 drivers who have worked 25 years or more without an accident or the 3,378 employee-led health and safety committees companywide, UPS has developed industry-leading safety training programs and safety equipment.

UPS Road Code participants learn how to identify road hazards by engaging in an interactive, computer-based game-based safety training program. Upon completing the modules, students also test their driving skills on a simulator. 

The foundation of UPS Road Code is the defensive driving techniques that emphasize what we call the five important driving habits:

  • Look up ahead.
  • See as much as you can.
  • Look around—do not stare.
  • Keep away from other vehicles.
  • See and be seen.

 

We also train drivers—both UPS drivers and the Road Code teens—to stay focused, keep their eyes moving constantly, describe what occurs in the viewing scene and apply defensive driving techniques. The driving simulator allows the students to demonstrate (in a controlled environment) the techniques reviewed in class.

About 150 UPS employees serve as volunteer instructors for UPS Road Code. How were these employees trained, and what requirements must they meet to remain volunteer instructors?

Program coordinators from each city attended a 20-hour in-class training session. In addition to the class material, each of the lead trainers received special training on facilitation, including a focus on teaching teens and generational differences. Trainers continue to collaborate via an internal website as well as periodic conference calls. Also, all adults working at the Boys & Girls Clubs undergo a standard background check.

As project lead for UPS Road Code, how did you ensure that session materials for each week were effective and engaging for teens? Did UPS conduct any teen focus groups or trial runs prior to launching UPS Road Code? If so, how did teens respond?

One of our UPS Road Code objectives was to design more engaging and effective interactive training. Surveys of today’s teenagers indicate that teens prefer to be engaged in learning rather than listen to a traditional classroom lecture. Lecture style is only one method of training. Engaging the students and allowing them to apply the techniques discussed, in this case through the use of simulators and computer modules, keeps the students involved. In addition to the hazard identification gaming module and the simulators, we created an auto safety trivia game that keeps students engaged. We reward students with small trinkets for their involvement, and it seems to keep students’ interest.

Many studies have been completed regarding training and how it relates to different generations. I have been involved with two published generational studies as part of the research for completing UPS Integrad®. NetGens (or Gen-Ys or Millennials) are those born from 1981-2001. These surveys indicated that NetGens are dependent, collaborative and seek constant praise and structured guidance, which helped guide the UPS Road Code curriculum.

We completed a series of pilot classes prior to the national launch of UPS Road Code. We were able to incorporate the feedback from the pilots into the final curriculum to ensure that the program is effective and engaging for today’s teenagers.

This year, UPS Road Code will be taught to an estimated 1,200 teens in Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA; Dallas, TX; Omaha, NB; Little Rock, AR; Oakland, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL and New Orleans, LA. How will UPS track Road Code’s success in these cities before the program is introduced to other markets in 2010?

We receive ongoing feedback from lead trainers in each city through the internal website as well as through regular conference calls. In addition, we receive feedback both at the individual sites and nationally from the Boys & Girls Clubs. 

What do you believe was the most challenging aspect of developing UPS Road Code?

The most challenging aspect of developing UPS Road Code was designing the module we titled “Consequential Driving.” The core of this module is built around teens understanding that tremendous responsibilities come with the privilege of driving. We cover in great detail the impacts of their decisions as they navigate the road. These decisions are endless, from speed and horseplay to loud music and texting. In this module, students are given multiple examples of accidents due to drivers’ perception of what they control, including risk evaluation, decisions, and consequences.

For example, if a teen driver receives a text message while driving, what is the teen driver’s thought process? The teen driver understands that a risk is involved if s/he looks at the text. What is the driver’s perception of the risk involved in reading and responding to the text message? In many cases, teen drivers say, “I can multitask” or “I am coordinated, therefore I can text and drive.” Teens during the module are consistently asked about their decision-making process, the risks involved, perception of risks and whether they are prepared for the consequences and outcomes of their decision.

Does UPS plan to create similar driver safety programs that target other populations?

We recognize that this program has a tremendous potential to be expanded both outside the U.S. and with additional populations. However, right now, we are focusing on developing and expanding UPS Road Code with the Boys & Girls Clubs.

What impact do you expect UPS Road Code to have on national fatality rates for motor vehicle crashes?

UPS Road Code’s goal is to save lives. We believe this program can be one of the many important initiatives that help contribute to a decrease in teen fatality rates.

How can parents become more involved in the teen driver learning process?

Active parent participation and involvement in the teen driver learning process continue to gain momentum in increasing teen driving safety.

Parents can do the following to improve teen driving safety:

  • Offer more guidance regarding when to allow a new teen to drive, who is driving with the teen and where the teen is driving (route they are taking);
  • Conduct in-car evaluations to check the vehicle for distractions (food, misplaced CDs, etc.);
  • Periodically drive along with teens to evaluate their driving skills. Particular attention should be placed on adherence to seatbelt usage, speed, space cushion, in-car distractions, clearing intersections and highway, rural and city driving;
  • Ad-hoc drive along with teens to assess driving skills as they relate to night driving and driving during inclement weather.        

 

How does seatbelt usage impact teen driving fatality statistics in the U.S.?

In 2006, the majority (58%) of young people (16-20 years old) involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were unbuckled. Culture and peer influence are the primary reasons that teenagers and their passengers do not wear safety belts.As NHSA numbers indicate, teens have a higher percentage of being involved in motor vehicle crashes. This statistic, combined with the lack of safety belt usage, plays a significant role in teen driving fatalities statistics.

Inattentive or distracted driving is another major cause of fatalities among teen drivers. Distractions include texting, general cell phone usage, iPods, other teens in the vehicle, loud music, alcohol/drugs, music, eating and horseplay. Other variables include sleep deprivation, mental alertness, and psychological and behavior concerns. 

In 2007, a total of 4,946 teenagers died and 400,000+ teens required medical attention as a result of car accidents. However, it is important to put this into a historical perspective and to recognize that teenage deaths from motor vehicle crashes have decreased by 43% since 1975, and a 4% decrease occurred from 2006 to 2007. (U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System , Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute).

References

Baker, S.P., Chen, L. & Li, G. (2007). Nationwide review of graduated driver licensing. Washington, DC: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services (2006). Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system (WISQARS). Available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars.

Don Taylor
Don Taylor is a Region Comprehensive Health and Safety Process Manager for UPS with 32 years of safety experience. He has worked extensively with the Virginia Tech Human Factors Department, Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, on the instructional design of the UPS Integrad® Training Center. He has also completed corporate seminars in management and health and safety encompassing legal issues, training, benefits and compliance.

Taylor holds a B.S. in Management and Labor Relations from Cleveland State University and an M.S. in Environmental Safety and Health Management from the University of Findlay.