I'm from Kittitas, Washington, which is in the center of the state with a population of 1,500 people. Speeding, texting and not wearing seat belts are big issues here. Being from a rural area, I can go miles without seeing a single other car on the road, which tempts teens to drive way too fast.
"I am passionate about road safety because I have seen the impact that fatalities have on families and communities."
Jane Kratz will be entering Boise (Idaho) State University in the fall, studying communications and environmental sciences. She plans to continue her advocacy for road safety that began in high school.
As a sophomore, she participated in a local educational campaign to raise awareness of the importance of wearing seat belts. The campaign won a national award from Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). The students parlayed their win into a relationship with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and developed a road safety training workshop for teens.
"What I believe needs to change is driver behavior. We need to make safety the number one concern of young drivers."
Kratz's passion for safety led her to attend the 2nd World Assembly for Road Safety in Stockholm, Sweden, in February (before pandemic stay-at-home orders were issued) as a representative of Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) and FCCLA.
She and Zack Love, a fellow Driving Skills for Life representative, were among 160 high school and college students from 75 countries to attend the conference.
The conference, entitled "Achieving Global Goals by 2030," was co-sponsored by the World Health Organization. Among the speakers: Zoleka Mandela, Nelson Mandela's granddaughter, whose own daughter was killed in a road crash by a drunk driver.
"There was a big emphasis on the fact that road traffic crashes are the single biggest killer of youth, and that it has been this way for more than a decade. This hit hard for me since many teens don't classify driving as one of the most dangerous activities that they will ever do," she said.
For that reason, Kratz said the conference gave her a glimpse of what young people can accomplish when working toward a common goal.
"The assembly made me feel very inspired to take action on road safety and to encourage others to do the same," she said. "I feel hopeful that youth have the power to work together and work towards our road safety goal. And I can't wait to see what we can do together."
This month, she and Love presented their learnings from Stockholm at the FCCLA's first-ever Virtual National Leadership Conference.
As a youth leadership organization, FCCLA has a strong interest in safe driving for youth. Through its FACTS program (Families Acting for Community Traffic Safety), FCCLA encourages young leaders to learn and promote safe driving habits. FCCLA and Ford Driving Skills for Life have partnered for seven years to bring this training to the forefront.
Kyle Green, Ford Driving Skills for Life International manager, was on the selection committee to identify the two students to receive scholarships to attend the Stockholm conference.
"Jane came across as quiet at first, but her leadership in FCCLA is anything but quiet," Green said. "She brought home the energy from the World Youth Assembly and has applied it in the messaging to her peers about what she learned and how she will continue to be an influence in road safety."
Road fatalities among teens have declined over the past 15 years due, in part, to successful awareness campaigns to increase seat-belt use and decrease distracted and drunk driving.
"The trend is good," Green said. "But if you're a parent who has a lost a child, you don't care about the trend. We want to prevent all parents from having to go through that."
Ford Driving Skills for Life teaches newly licensed and teen drivers the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs. Since it began in 2003, Ford Driving Skills for Life has trained more than 1 million drivers in all 50 U.S. states and in 43 countries around the world – at no cost to participants. Through its hands-on, web-based and classroom training, curriculum addresses both the areas of inexperience as well as the issues surrounding distracted and impaired driving. Ford Driving Skills for Life has partnered with Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) for the past seven years.
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has over 182,000 members and more than 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.