The author Vijay B. Dixit is Chairman of the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation
Traffic fatalities in Minnesota are on the rise. The current data from the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety reports 356 fatalities as of Friday November 20, 2020. Last year the fatality count on this day was 321. The rise in fatalities was a surprise because a lower number in fatalities was expected due to reduced traffic on the road caused by COVID-19.
Nationally, motor-vehicle crashes continue to be the number one cause of death for U.S. teens. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that the total number of deaths among teens ages 13 to 19, including pedestrian and bicycle incidents, was 2,476 in 2018 and is equivalent to more than six deaths per day. Distracted driving is prevalent among teens and comes in different shapes and forms that keep changing.
Because the Shreya Dixit Memorial Foundation primarily works with teens, seeking new ways to tackle the issue of distracted driving among teens. The goal is to engage and motivate teenagers to reduce distracted driving.
While working on the book, One Split Second- The Distracted Driving Epidemic: How it Kills and How we can Fix it, I reviewed the work of Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK, and leader of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group. Blakemore’s group research focuses on the development of social cognition and decision making in the human adolescent brain, and adolescent mental health.
Foundation pursues a positive reinforcement model
Blakemore’s group runs behavioral studies in schools and in the lab, as well as neuroimaging studies, with adolescents and adults. The research demonstrated that peer-to-peer influence plays a dominant role in shaping teen behavior.
Although Blakemore referenced negative peer-to-peer influence I wanted to flip her findings to focus on positive peer-to-peer influence. The foundation embarked on a project to develop and implement a process model of positive reinforcement with active teen engagement. The model utilized Education, Incentives and Actions to instill distraction-free driving behavior with peer-to-peer influence-based projects and activities.
To deploy this model the Shreya Foundation established Distraction-free Life Clubs (DFLC) at high schools. The activities performed by the club members allow them to experience distracted driving themselves. The highly engaging characteristics of the experience show that the model enables club members to retain changed behaviors long after graduating from the high school.
Distraction-free Life Club at Eden Prairie High School
The Shreya Foundation held a six-week summer internship over this summer even during the COVID-19 crisis. Two of the former presidents of the of the Eden Prairie High School Club came back and successfully managed the summer internship program for 19 teens.
The club creates an environment that is akin to working in a corporate setting with its organizational structure, operations, succession planning etc. It is designed to be a place of self-learning which prepares young people for the future.
Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Shreya Foundation conducted a special summer internship program. The design of the internship took the foundation programming beyond Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s work. Blakemore’s wore was enhanced by including gamification activities to effect change. The Distraction-free Life Clubs became a gamification testing ground and a powerful mechanism for achieving behavior change among teens.
Last week, I interviewed Iesh Gujral, the current president of the Distraction-free Club at Eden Prairie High School to discuss how the gamification is imbedded into the club’s work. We planned a 30-minute conversation, but it lasted for more than an hour.
To give full justice to what Iesh had to say, I decided to save our conversation for the next column. I use today’s column to introduce the foundation’s gamification concept and will present the interview in the next column. It will describe how gamification has helped our teens become better disciplined citizens of the future.
For details about the Distraction-free Life Clubs please visit www.shreyadixit.org or firstname.lastname@example.org