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Pepperell High wins highest teen driving award at national summit

January 8, 2020–8:14 a.m.


Pepperell High School‘s (PHS) Teens in the Driver Seat® (TDS) Chapter attended the Teens in the Driver Seat Summit 19’ that was held in San Marcos, Texas in December.

TDS is a national peer-to-peer driving safety program sponsored in Georgia through the Georgia Department of Transportation and General Motors. Car crashes account for more teen deaths than any other cause, accounting for nearly ⅓ of all teen deaths in America each year. In 2017, 2,364 Teens in the US aged 16-19 were killed in car crashes. That’s the equivalent of a school bus loaded with teens crashing once every week for an entire school year. For every American teen killed in a car crash, about 100 more are injured. In short, six teens aged 16-19 died every day due to motor vehicle crashes, and hundreds more are injured.

“We, students and adults, must be vigilant with our continued efforts to educate new drivers, as well as refresh current drivers regarding driving safety. We must continue to think outside the box and develop new initiatives that keep driver awareness a priority,” said Pepperell High TDS Co-Sponsor, Alana Ellenburg.

The Summit featured expert presenters and safety advocates with breakout sessions and interactive activities targeted at convincing teen drivers and passengers that they have the power to change risky driving behaviors. The event concluded by recognizing the TDS All-Star schools for their hard work in spreading the safe driving message year-round.

“With exceptional teens and teachers like those found at PHS, we have seen a 14% increase in seat belt use and a 30% drop in electronic device use behind the wheel in schools where TDS is being deployed. Those numbers translate to safer roadways for all of us,” said Associate Transportation Researcher of Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Stacey Tisdale.

PHS had the opportunity to introduce their new and developing campaign at this year’s Summit. Cycle Clap™ is a motorcycle awareness campaign that will make drivers more attentive, alert, and aware of motorcycles on the roads. PHS students are currently working with HindLight Media to develop a logo design, presentations, a social media marketing campaign, and even a commercial. Cycle Clap™ is similar to Punch Bug, but instead of punching the individual in the car with you, you recognize the presence of a motorcycle and clap if you are a passenger. If you are the driver, you do not perform the action of clapping, you simply say “clap” while keeping both hands on the steering wheel. Cycle Clap™ already has the support of Teens in the Driver Seat, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia Department of Drivers Services (DDS), Floyd County Police Department, Rome City Police, and the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.

“We are blessed with fabulous local and state partners,” Ellenburg continued. “They contribute greatly to the success of our program and are always willing to assist with our initiatives and programs.”

PHS has been involved with Georgia TDS from the inception in 2013. PHS won the TDS Cup for the state of Georgia for the first 4 years. At this year’s Summit, PHS’s Chapter was named a TDS All-Star School. This is TDS’s highest honor. In order to be named an All-Star School, schools must participate in driving-related education programs such as Zero Crazy, parent outreach through Ride With Me, teen surveys, and various activities throughout the school year to promote driver safety in their school and community. PHS not only reached these goals but exceeded them by educating teens about safe driving on both the state and national levels. By winning All-Star School, PHS received an All-Star trophy and won $1,000 for their Chapter.

Eva Ellenburg, President of PHS TDS/Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), has been on the National Peer-to-Peer TDS Teen Advisory Board (TAB) for three years and is serving as National Co-Chair this year. She stated that she is delighted to serve both the community of Floyd County and the nation in promoting driving safety as well as how excited she was to serve as a co-chair on the national board and how amazing the opportunity was to present Cycle Clap™ to a group of teens that will take it back to their communities and spread it nationwide.

Laura Byrd, Co-Sponsor for Pepperell TDS/SADD won her first SponStar this year. TDS students nominate sponsors for this award. Mrs. Byrd was nominated by Bailey Cordle, PHS Class of 2019. In her nomination, Bailey stated “Mrs. Byrd is a wonderful lady who has helped with every activity PHS TDS/SADD has completed from when I was a freshman to now and I am a freshman in college. She is such an amazing woman. We love her for everything she does for our group.”

“I was very honored to be a part of this year’s conference and introduction of Cycle Clap™ to students from around the south and to see the reaction to Eva’s presentation. The response was overwhelming,” said Byrd.

About Teens in the Driver Seat®

Teens in the Driver Seat® is an initiative under the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Youth Transportation Safety (YTS) Program. The YTS mission is to save lives and prevent injury among youth through education, empowerment, and peer-led outreach. The growth of the Teens in the Driver Seat® program, since its inception in Texas, has expanded to over 1.4 million students in more than 1,600 schools. The program is available, at no charge, to any middle and high school in Georgia. For more information, please visit

Story contributed by Alana Ellenburg.