The Missouri Department of Transportation has changed the name of its program which promotes traffic safety to high school kids.  TEAM SPIRIT is now known as TRACTION, short for Teens Taking Action to Prevent Traffic Crashes.  The new moniker is meant to stimulate increased involvement in the effort.

The program’s focused on getting high school kids to form teams to address traffic safety issues with their fellow students.  After attending three-day training conferences over the summer, the kids make a presentation on campus during the school year.

TRACTION Coordinator Sharee Galnore says the teams often choose to stage a mock traffic accident.  “They have a crash car.  They have victims inside the car.  There will be at least one fatality.  The ambulance will show up, the police, fire, the coroner, everyone, so that the students can see this is what really happens.”

The teams create their own activities with which to engage their fellow students.  Safety issues most often covered include texting while driving, driving under the influence and seat belt usage.

Galnore says two of those issues play outsized roles in traffic crashes involving teens.  “The texting right now is very big” said Galnore.  “That’s an issue that we are trying to address very hard.  In fact it’s right up there with drinking and driving.”

Galnore says there’s also a new issue facing high school drivers which can be attributed to texting.  “Runoff road collisions.  They run off the road and then they come back across and hit a tree, a culvert, something like that.”

TRACTION offers two summer training conferences where up to 10 students and two school advisers receive instruction on devising activities and presentations they then take back to their campuses during the school year.

Packets are distributed to every public high school in the state in mid-January.  Teams can register for one of two three day conferences which take place in late July in Columbia and Cape Girardeau.

Roughly 100 students and 20 advisers will be selected to attend each of conference.  Galnore says more than 15 high school and college students assist with the training for the teams.

As far as the program’s new name, MoDOT’s Director of Highway Safety Bill Whitfield said “The program has been in existence for over 20 years. It will have a new look, but the traffic safety messages will remain the same”.