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The Nation's Premier Youth Health & Safety Organization
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The Nation's Premier Youth Health & Safety Organization
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Patrick Neal Stepp

Patrick Neal Stepp

2016 Lifesavers Scholar Blog

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Addressing SADD students from across the nation at the 2014 SADD National Conference

The journey to my attendance at the Lifesavers Conference started my sophomore year of high school, when I was given the task to start the first ever SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) chapter at Sheridan High School. From there, my involvement in traffic safety and many other teen-related issues skyrocketed and I ended up landing as the 2013-2014 SADD National Student of the Year. After being involved  with SADD at the state level for a few years, then being involved in the SADD National Student Leadership Council for a year, I achieved a goal that I never thought I would get: being the face and the voice of SADD  students all across the nation was such an awesome experience! I had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of young leaders who produced outstanding traffic safety programming and planned one of the best national conferences SADD Nation has ever seen. But from a young college student perspective, the internship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and spending the summer in Washington, DC had to be the best part of the job.

Former NHTSA Administrator David Friedman and I on my last day as a NHTSA intern

Former NHTSA Administrator David Friedman and I on my last day as a NHTSA intern

While interning with NHTSA, I had the privilege of meeting and working with many of the people who help plan the Lifesavers conference and work at NHTSA. I was talking with my internship supervisor, Katie Ballard, and she asked me if I had ever heard of or been to Lifesavers and I told her I didn’t know anything about it. She showed me the program from the 2014 conference and my jaw about dropped to the floor. What I pictured in my head was an adult version of the SADD National Conference. After being at a few SADD Conferences before, I knew I had to get to the Lifesavers. So I promised Katie that I would see her at the 2015 Lifesavers Conference and sure enough I was there! Unfortunately, Katie could not attend, but I made sure to send her pictures and tell her how much I was learning. The 2015 Lifesavers Conference in Chicago was my first time attending and I absolutely loved it. I had spent so much time planning SADD National Conferences in the past that I often did not have enough time to sit down and educate myself. In Chicago, I was able to learn from some of the world’s leading traffic safety advocates and networked with organizations from all across the United States. When I saw that the 2016 Lifesavers Conference was going to be in Long Beach, I made sure to put it in my calendar a year in advance. I knew there was so much for me to learn and so many people to meet that I had to come back, and I am so thankful for being selected as a Scholar, which allowed me to do just that.

Due to my background with SADD, I focused my attention on mostly teen traffic safety workshops while at Lifesavers. I had the opportunity to hear some of my peers share their stories of how they got involved in teen traffic safety, and they did an amazing job. I also got to hear from four 18-20-year-old students who are currently in the LA county court system for traffic- related issues. That was one of the most  interesting workshops I had ever attended. The students came from a completely different walk of life than me and I was so intrigued to hear what

they had to say about traffic safety. The honesty that each person showed was so real and it made me realize that our work as traffic safety advocates is not going unheard, despite car crashes still being the number one killer of teens. We had a great Q&A time with the panelists and I was so glad I made the decision to go to that workshop. I made sure to attend every single workshop that a student was a part of the panel because I believe that adults can gain a lot of knowledge from students. Another awesome workshop that went really well was a mock court room case of a distracted driver being charged for hitting a pedestrian while crossing the street.

All the presenters were actors/actresses in the mock trial and did a great job with presenting the information while making the workshop fun and engaging. I enjoyed how the presenters mixed it up and it wasn’t like a normal workshop.

Some other workshops I attended concerned optimizing vehicle safety for teen drivers and innovated school policies that support teen driver safety. Vehicle safety intrigues me because I was the youngest child who got the hand-me-down vehicle or the car that was bought off the side of the road for less than $1000. So when I see all the new car technology that car manufacturers are coming out with, I get excited for what I will be able to drive in the future! And I also learned what kind of car my children will and will not be allowed to drive. The school policies workshop gave me information to use when I finally become an adult and I get into the schools and become an adult advisor for a high school SADD chapter.  I’ll look at later school start times and interacting with the school resource officers.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Lifesavers Scholar committee and anyone else who had an impact on making the Scholar program happen. I think this program will give so many people who are interested in traffic safety an opportunity to get their foot in the door to meet with very important people in the traffic safety world. This program also allows for students who, like myself, have a heart for traffic safety to continue to learn, be involved and network with people who will be able to help them later on down the road. I look forward to see where my involvement will be next year at the Lifesavers Conference.