According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for the age group 15 to 20 years old. Every year approximately 3,000 teens die on our nation’s highways and another 350,000 suffer severe injuries and lifelong disabilities. The National Safety Council sees the issue as a national health crisis, so should every teen and parent. Most traffic safety programs designed for teens attempt to modify their behavior to reduce risk of crashes. We know teens have difficulty regulating their risk-taking behavior. It is the belief of The ART of Driving that a more balanced approach is needed.

Current driver education programs prepare young people to drive by teaching them the rules of the road and basic skills. This does not mean that they are ready to manage the full range of driving challenges. This is the foundation and should be viewed as only the beginning of a very long process. Teens are not being adequately prepared for the complexities they will face on today’s highways. They need a gradual exposure to increasingly challenging driving tasks. They need to build upon their driving experiences and develop safe habits. Most drivers’ education


programs can raise awareness about major risks such as drinking and driving. However, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these programs have little effect on changing teen drivers’ attitudes. It is those attitudes that get them into trouble. The ART of Driving program works to change those attitudes.

Research has told us for years what changes need to be made in order to impact these sobering statistics; so why have those recommendations not been adopted? It’s a question we urge every teen and parent to ponder. Research has shown that increased time behind-the-wheel, increased practical training, and the use of technology within the driver education curriculum, increased parental involvement, and the incorporation of insights about the developmental processes faced by youth all need to happen if lives are to be saved.

As in the case of Ashley, not all crashes are the result of risk-taking behavior, but a lack of experience and skill. There is an art to doing anything well, which includes driving. Thus, the ART of Driving was developed.


The “ART” not only represents Ashley Renee Thompson but, Awareness, Responsibility, and Training. These are the pillars of the program. It is our goal that young drivers never underestimate the risks or overestimate their abilities.We urge teens to accept the fact that they are inexperienced and require increased time behind-the-wheel and advanced driver training. We also believe that teens should be empowered to take responsibility to be safe drivers as well as passengers.

Through Ashley’s story this goal is being achieved. When teen drivers and parents hear how an honor student, competitive athlete, and responsible young lady lost her life less than a mile from home, the message is clear. Ashley was not speeding, was not on a cell phone, was not under the influence, and had no other passengers in the car to distract her. She was wearing a seat belt and the weather was not an issue. If this could happen to Ashley under those circumstances imagine what can happen when risk factors are added to the equation. In addition, it becomes apparent to those hearing her story that


defensive driving skills are required; defensive driving skills that are not usually part of a young teen’s repertoire of knowledge. Ashley swerved (for reasons unknown), over-corrected putting the car into a skid. She went off the road and hit a tree. Ashley was killed instantly. She did not have the skills or experience necessary to handle the situation and recover the vehicle.

Most stories that involve teen driving fatalities include the element of drugs or alcohol. Those are what make headlines. However, parents and teens should know that drugs and alcohol account for only 25% of those fatalities. The ART of Driving feels strongly that more attention should be brought to the main causes, inexperience and distractions. For every additional passenger the risk of a fatal crash increases by 100%. 65% of all teen passenger deaths occur when another teen was driving.

This is why The ART of Driving believes in empowering teens to not only be safe drivers but safe passengers as well.