April 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 2 // Ideas at Work // 2IAW3
"Ohio 4-H CARTEENS": Peer Intervention Safety Program
The Ohio 4-H CARTEENS is a peer education program designed to reduce the number of second time juvenile traffic offenders. 4-H CARTEENS has been in existence for ten years. The unique aspect of the program is that teens collaborate with the juvenile court system and the Ohio Highway Patrol in 34 counties. The teen presenters utilized court violation data to determine program content. Junior leaders or other teen facilitators plan and run the two-hour safety programs. With guidance from the Ohio Highway Patrol and training by the 4-H Youth professional, the facilitators cover topics such as defensive driving techniques, rural road safety, and overcoming negative peer pressure.
A relatively stable statistic is that teen drivers account for a disproportionate number of traffic violations. Currently, 8% of all drivers in Ohio are teen drivers--yet, this group accounts for 16% of all traffic accidents and fatalities in the state. A Brown County Juvenile Court judge in Brown County, concerned about the increasing number of juvenile traffic offenders seen in his court, approached the Brown County Extension Service in 1987 to solicit help in finding a solution to this problem.
The judge had read of teen peer education programs used by schools and courts throughout the United States. He proposed a peer-led traffic safety program, modeled after other successful programs, be created in Brown County. Peer educators have been used in health education (Lindsey, 1997), changing the rape and violence culture (Abrams, 1996), encouraging safer sexual practices (Sugahara, 1995), preventing date rape (Holcomb & Seehafer, 1995), HIV/AIDS prevention (Baldwin, 1995), alcohol and other drug use prevention (Dietz, 1991), and pregnancy prevention (Archer & Cahill, 1991; Barker, 1991).
Responding to the judge's request, the 4-H youth professional recruited ten junior leaders to design a peer-intervention program for traffic offenders. The 4-H professional reasoned that if teens were to help their peers become safer drivers, then teens, not adults, needed to be responsible for creating the program. The junior leaders began by contacting the National Highway Safety Administration and state and federal government officials and by visiting with local law officials. Using county records, they determined the most common traffic violations are the leading causes of traffic injury and death in Brown County among teens. For example, they found that reckless operation was a common violation, but alcohol-related offenses were relatively rare. Based on their research, the junior leaders created a safety intervention program called Caring and Responsible TEENS or CARTEENS.
The CARTEENS program is a two-hour safety program run by the junior leaders or other teen facilitators, with technical assistance from Ohio Highway Patrol personnel. The facilitators wrote most of the program material based on their experiences, research, and the advice of safety experts. The program on any given night might vary, depending upon which facilitators are involved--although there are common elements to each program. Topics in the program usually include defensive driving techniques, the importance of seat belt use, rural road safety, unsafe driving consequences, and negative peer pressure.
Some programs utilize innovations such as rollover simulations, docudramas, mock funerals, and brain-injury demonstrations. The teen educators use a variety of teaching methods to reach participants with different learning styles and to keep participants engaged. For example, the program may include skits, discussions, videos, demonstrations, and lectures.
For peer education programs to be effective, educators need to be well trained and supervised (Sloane, Conant & Zimmer 1993). The 4-H youth professionals involved with the program provide guidance in public speaking, group dynamics, conflict resolution, and interactive teaching techniques for the facilitators. They learn about Ohio safety laws and traffic and vehicular safety. Another key role of the facilitators is to act as intermediaries among teens, law enforcement, and the courts, thus strengthening the relationships among these community partners.
Implementation and Results
The Brown County Probate/Juvenile Court mandates attendance at CARTEENS for any first time juvenile traffic offender. Attendance is in lieu of fines, suspension, or other traditional sentences. The frequency of the CARTEENS program is determined by the number of first time offenders. Typically, Brown County offers a CARTEEN program three to four times a year. (In more urban counties where the program has now expanded, some programs occur twice a month.) Approximately 40 participants may attend a session led by ten to twelve CARTEEN facilitators.
The juvenile court assigns a $10 fee that the participants pay to the local CARTEENS. Fees are primarily used to purchase program supplies. CARTEENS have received grants from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Allstate Foundation, the Metropolitan Life Foundation, and local insurance agencies. The Extension faculty involved with CARTEENS use these funds to obtain resources and develop other educational experiences beyond the scope of the original program.
Ten years after its inception, the original Brown County CARTEENS program has expanded to become the Ohio 4-H CARTEENS Program. Currently, 34 counties have Ohio 4-H CARTEENS. One county in Indiana has started a program.
An outside evaluator is assessing the Ohio 4-H CARTEENS program. Participants received pre- and post-test surveys during selected programs. Three month and six month follow-up surveys were also distributed to participants. Although only in the preliminary stages of analysis, the results indicate a positive response to the program by the teens. The preliminary analysis also suggests lower rates of repeat offenders for teens than before the program in participating counties. In response to a survey, judges gave an overwhelmingly favorable view of the program. Sargent Dennis Patterson of the Ohio Highway Patrol stated, "The CARTEENS has had more impact on traffic safety than any other program that I have been involved with in my twenty-five year career." The Ohio Governor's Traffic Safety Council, the National Safety Council, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have honored this safety program. The partnership of the court system, law enforcement, teens, the Extension Service, and community leaders has been the strength of this educational effort. Through this partnership, Ohio roads and teen drivers are becoming safer.
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