January 21, 2002, Hamilton ON – New initiative to reduce teen related car crashes launched
across North America today.
Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death and permanent injury in teens across North
America. 1 in 4 teens will be involved in a car crash within their first year of driving.
410 Canadian teens lost their lives
29,321 were injured
Teens are 3 to 4 times more likely to be involved in an
automobile crash than any other age group
3,561 15 – 20 year old drivers were killed
8,175 15 – 20 year old drivers were involved in fatal crashes
An additional 362,000 were injured
Estimated economic burden exceeds US$32.8 billion
The “I Promise Program”
The “I Promise Program” recognizes that as a teen
starts to drive, both parents and teens begin scrutinizing each other’s driving. Parents
are concerned for their teen’s safety, whereas teens seek to hold their parents
accountable to what is expected of them. This presents an opportune time to promote
responsible road use and trust by both parents and teens.
The “I Promise Program” consists of a Parent-Teen
Mutual Safe Driving Contract and a rear window decal. The “I Promise Program”
asks that parents and teens sit down together and review the mutual safe driving contract;
discuss important aspects of the plan (e.g., drinking and driving, seat belt use, cell
phones, and peer pressure); and negotiate matters that correlate most with teen-related
car crashes. Parents must assure that the vehicle in good repair if the teen is using the
family car. They also must not drink and drive nor engage in any other untoward driver
behaviour. In other words, reasonable and appropriate expectations held for the teen are
also held for the parent. It is the parents’ responsibility to act as a role model
for their son or daughter with respect to driving behaviour.
After the contract is read and signed by parent and teen, a
decal is affixed to the inside rear window of the vehicle. The decal adheres by static
cling and will not deface the vehicle upon removal. The decal displays a toll-free number
that enables the community to make reports on driver behavior and thus provide the family
a means of feedback and accountability to their mutual safe driving contract. Reports are
taken by a professional call center with three anti-fraud measures in effect to minimize
the opportunity to render a false report. Any report on driver behaviour whether
compliment or complaint, is forwarded by mail only to the family member who has been
registered with the program to receive reports. The recipient of the report will determine
the driver of the vehicle by the date, time and location of the event reported. The event
reported will then be managed as predetermined by the family contract.
Distribution and Cost
While the goal is reducing the risk of teen related car
crashes, a primary objective of the “I Promise Program” is that it be delivered
to families in the easiest, most economical way possible and preferably at no cost to the
family. To this end, automobile insurance companies are sought as distribution partners.
The program meets the complimentary objectives of reducing the risk of injury and death of
teens on behalf of parents, while reducing the risk of financial losses on behalf of
insurance companies. Teen drivers represents one of the insurance industries highest risk
categories where payouts on claims for property damage, accident benefits and death
benefits significantly contribute to lower financial performance.
Effective immediately, the Dominion of Canada General
Insurance Company is the first insurance company in North America to participate and
introduce a new discount for participation with the “I Promise Program”, on
private passenger policies in the province of Ontario. The discount is a one-time family
credit of $40 and is intended to reimburse policyholders for the $40 per family cost of
the “I Promise” program when purchased in affiliation with an insurance company.
This discount will be applied to the Bodily Injury premium of the private passenger
vehicle where the following eligibility criteria has been met:
The driver is under 25 years of age and is enrolled in the
“I Promise” program;
A signed copy of the “I Promise Program”, Parent-Teen Mutual Safe Driving Contract
declaration page is submitted to the company or kept on file by underwriting authority brokers; and
The “I Promise Program”, rear window decal is attached to the inside rear
window of the vehicle in a clearly visible location.
(Drivers under 25 years of age with a premium surcharge for accidents or convictions
are not eligible for this discount.)
In Newfoundland, the Grand Falls-Windsor District of the
RCMP has reviewed the program, partnered with The Co-operators – G.C. King Insurance
Agency Ltd. and recommends that parents and teens in their jurisdiction participate.
The Co-operators and G.C. King Insurance Agency Ltd. are matching contributions to meet
half of the cost of the program, with parents contributing the other half.
Parents, whose insurance company is yet to provide the
program, but wish to participate, may do so by registering directly with the “I
Promise Program” at a cost of $49.00. Insurance Agents and Brokers, whose insurance
companies they represent do not yet provide the program, can make the program available to
their clients at the reduced cost of $45.00. Order forms are available on the website:
As well as distribution by insurance companies, other
organizations are welcomed to participate and the public health department of Lancaster
County, South Carolina, is the first to do so.
Healthy Lancaster (public health – Lancaster,
South Carolina) supports the “I Promise Program” by targeting high school
students in the Buford community. As part of Healthy Lancaster’s SAFE STRIDES
Campaign, the organization will pay program costs for the first 100 families to
participate in the program. Healthy Lancaster has built a partnership with Buford High
School and the Lancaster County School District to implement the “I Promise
Program”. Packets will be distributed to families with teens in tenth or eleventh
grade in Buford High School. The program will be a pilot intervention with a goal of
obtaining additional funding to implement the initiative in every high school within the
county. Healthy Lancaster will start the program in February and encourages parents to
register for the program.
Research and Development
Using the Internet, the “I Promise Program” has
been developed with the input of interested stakeholders in teen and driver safety
worldwide. Requests for input and surveys have been conducted with over;
1,000 passenger safety professionals
5,000 automobile insurance related persons
3,000 community service club members
3,000 other interested stakeholders representing: medical associations, trauma care,
Coroners, emergency response, traffic safety and government
A study is underway to assess the feasibility and
effectiveness of “I Promise Program”. In July 2001, the Ontario Neurotrauma
Foundation awarded $104,819 to a collaborative research team led by Morag MacKay
(Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) and Dr. Kimberly Thompson (Harvard School of
Public Health) for a two-year formative evaluation of the program. The study includes a
pilot that will focus on new drivers in Eastern Ontario, and will lay the groundwork for
an impact/outcome evaluation of this prevention strategy in reducing the incidence of teen
related car crashes. [Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation strategically invests in knowledge
creation, knowledge transfer and research capacity building across Ontario in the
prevention, rehabilitation and treatment of spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.]
Support for the Program
Over 90 letters of support and numerous articles can be viewed on the “I Promise Program”
– extracts and quotes from some of those are shown below.
“I Promise” Program History
In February 2000, Gary Direnfeld, the parent of a soon to
be 16 year-old was commuting from Hamilton to Toronto at 5:30am. While following a
transport truck he was overtaken by a young driver weaving speedily through traffic.
Noticing the 1-800 number on the back of the truck for reporting poor driving, he thought
that he would very much like to be able to notify the parents of the speeding young
driver. Reminded that his own son would soon be a driver he concerned himself with his
safety and injury prevention. It should be noted that Gary Direnfeld is a social worker by
profession with years of experience developing and directing brain injury rehabilitation
services for young persons who acquired their brain injuries in car crashes. On the
commute home he spoke with Kiwanis member Andy Gaudet and discussed a concept for teen
road safety. Mr. Gaudet coined the name “”I Promise Program”” and thus
the program was conceived.
Research and Program Development
The next several months were occupied with searching and
reviewing statistics with respect to teen drivers and reviewing injury prevention programs
targeting teen drivers. In June 2000 the first model of the “I Promise Program”
was completed. Also at that time, Direnfeld approached friend, Jan Lowther, former
publisher of Canada’s leading insurance magazine, the Canadian Underwriter. Ms.
Lowther felt there was value in the program and joined the organization to promote its
merits to the automobile insurance industry.
Virtual Focus Group and Ongoing Program Development
The Internet was used to look for people to review the
program model. Searching for organizations whose mandate would include an interest in safe
driving, teens and injury prevention an initial database of email contact addresses for
200 organizations was developed. The organizations included medical groups, police
services, safety and injury prevention groups, etc. On the basis of feedback provided, the
program model was adjusted accordingly and this process continued. Between December 2000
and January 2001, meetings were held with CEOs and high-level executives from
property/casualty insurance companies for their input. The email database has grown to
include as many as 17,000 email addresses. The program continues to be updated based upon
the input of experts and new research.
Current Status – January 2002
A program model has been developed that accounts for and overcomes challenges to delivering a
program aimed at reducing the risk of teen driver related car crashes.
A database of over 15,000 email addresses is maintained for
an ongoing virtual focus group representing thousands of organizations.
The “I Promise Program” has received over 90 letters of support representing 8 countries.
Research and ongoing improvements continue
The program officially launched across North America with
broad support from community based agencies and organizations.
The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company of Canada
is the first insurer to provide a discount on the insurance premium equal to the cost of
the program for their policyholders in the province of Ontario.
Healthy Lancaster is the first public health department to
purchase registrations for distribution to teens in the city of Lancaster, South Carolina.
Quotes from Support Letters
The following quotes are taken from the 94 letters of support provided to the I Promise Program.
The letters are all available to read in their entirety on the Web site’s support page at
Your program has two very interesting components. The first
and perhaps the most important, is having parents of young drivers discuss with their
children issues related to the appropriate use of a vehicle, then negotiate a formal
– David Collenette, P.C., M.P. Minister of Transport,Government of Canada
Your “I Promise Program” which advocates bringing
young drivers and their parents together in a mutual contract to discuss the hazards
involved while operating a motor vehicle is an excellent strategy.
– Bernard Parks, Chief of Police, Los Angeles Police Department, California
The Niagara regional Police Service is committee to
reducing the number of collisions on our roads. Your innovative approach has excellent
merit and potential of correcting improper driving behaviour among young drivers.
– Gary Nicholls, Chief of Police, Niagara Regional Police Services
We recognize that motor vehicle crashes are the leading
cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds. . . It is through these types of programs that we
can have the greatest impact on traffic safety problems.
– Rose McMurray, Office of Traffic Safety Programs, National Highway Traffic Safety
Association, US Department of Transportation
The I Promise Program provides a unique opportunity for
families to communicate effectively and fairly about the privilege of driving and the
responsibilities of both young drivers and their parents. By making teenagers more ware of
their role as drivers, by protecting them from avoidable risks, and by encouraging them to
take a more active role in their own physical safety and that of their peers, the I
Promise Program has the potential to greatly reduce the high occurrence of preventable injuries.
– Allan Rock, Minister of Health, Government of Canada
At CPA Ontario, we are all too well aware of the human
suffering associated with spinal cord injuries in Canada, the leading cause being motor
vehicle crashes. With over 1,000 injuries each year in Canada, of which approximately 400
are caused by motor vehicle crashes, the potential financial and human gains through
successful prevention programs are enormous.
– William Adair, Executive Director, Canadian Paraplegic Association – Ontario
I am writing this letter to express my sincere support for
the program. I have seen too many tragic motor vehicle accidents at my hospital and the
devastating impact it has on the victim’s families, friends, caregivers and
caretakers. It is only through appropriate intervention such as programs like yours that
the majority of these injuries can be prevented.
– Charles Smith, MD, Director, Trauma Anesthesia, MetroHealth Medical Center, Ohio
One of the most appealing aspects of the I Promise Program
is that there is a mutual agreement between parents and teens. On the one hand, this
encourages responsible behaviour by the teens and on the other hand, it promotes open and
meaningful communications between teens and their parents. Families will be able to
discuss the importance of responsible behaviour, and some of the dangers teens may have to
face in terms of driving.
– Dawn Walker, RN, Executive Director, Canadian Institute of Child Health
At Kiwanis our primary purpose is to serve our communities.
The “I Promise Program” does just that and we are proud to attach ourselves to
such a fundamentally important step in saving thousands of lives within our own neighborhoods.
– Don Collins, President, Hamilton East Kiwanis Club
As you know I spend much of my time dealing with the
victims of car crashes and their families. Each crash affects not just the injured
persons, but literally hundreds of others. The I Promise Program seems to provide a way
for young people to responsibly manage their own actions. It approaches them as partners
in this and treats them as adults. I believe that this can only be a good thing.
– Bill Griggs, MD, Director, Trauma Services, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Australia
We applaud an initiative that puts the responsibility of
appropriate behavior behind the wheel in the hands of the parents. Your approach requires
parents to become more involved in the actions of their children before it is too late.
– Dan Montgomery, Chief of Police, Westminster Police Department, Colorado
As the provincial network for school councils in this
province, high school students are among those whose interests we represent. Any effort
which has the potential to reduce injury and death in teen drivers cannot but be of
benefit not only to the student drivers, but to those who drive with them. The “I
Promise Program” is one that we support to promote safety and responsibility among
teen drivers with in turn makes travel safer for all drivers, passengers and pedestrians on our roadways.
– Eva Whitmore, Executive Director, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils
At our Board meeting this month, we voted in unanimous
support of your injury prevention program. Based on the literature provided on your web
site, we believe “I Promise” has fantastic promise in reducing teen driving injuries and deaths!
– Tom Scaletta, MD, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, Board of Directors
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Community Health
Foundation, we would like to offer our support for your program to prevent injury to teen
drivers. The idea is very worthwhile and we anticipate that many parents, as well as
teens, will want to become involved.
– Carol Bush, Resource Coordinator, Community Health Foundation, Tulsa, Oklahoma
As Coroner of Montgomery county, OH, USA, I feel privileged
to endorse you in this project, and in fact any project of such a widely received and
effective program to save children’s lives.
– James Davis, MD, Coroner, Montgomery County, Ohio
We are excited to learn of the new organization you’re
initiating that focuses on the next phase of passenger safety, the education of new
drivers. Based on reports by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and the national
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to name just two, we know that teen drivers are
largely unready, physically and mentally, for the complex skills driving requires. Any
tools we can give teen drivers to survive the early years and become mature and
responsible behind the wheel can only be a continuation of the work we support in the
early years of vehicle travel. The I Promise Program is one that we wholeheartedly support
to promote safety and responsibility among teen drivers which, in turn, makes travel safer
for all drivers, passengers and pedestrians on our roadways.
– Elaine Kizewski, Executive Director, International Center for injury Prevention,
Stevens Point, Wisconsin