UVM Public Health Project Students

UVM & YSCVT Developing New Driver Attitude Survey

The Youth Safety Council is working with UVM students to create a pilot ‘new driver attitude survey’ that will generate data about our state’s youngest drivers’ perspectives on safety. Public Health Projects are a required course incorporated in the Vermont Integrated Curriculum, which teaches students to apply the principles and science of public health while working to improve the health of the community, especially through prevention. Through exposure to the kinds of public health challenges they will face in their future careers, the overall goal is that students will become better physicians.

The survey will help the Youth Safety Council of Vermont acquire a basic understanding of the work that needs to be done to create a safe driving culture in the newest generation of Vermont drivers. There is minimal data about new driver attitudes (toward driving distracted, etc.) in the state — the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey provides sparse information, and the Governor’s Highway Safety (GHSP) Attitude Surveys record responses only from people who are age 18 and over. The UVM students will be helping the state’s safety sector improve its data-informed strategies.

The students’ work could help guide future safe driving initiatives by building from the pilot survey of Chittenden County high school students toward a goal of a statewide student/new driver survey in Vermont. This work could help the Governor’s Highway Safety Program secure future supports for youth driver safety initiatives in the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, and the data would help organizations like YSCVT with independent development of safety education programs like the Turn Off Texting demonstration.

Public Health Projects respond to health needs identified by local community agencies. 16 projects are completed each fall by medical student groups working in partnership with community agencies like YSCVT, American Red Cross, and the Vermont Department of Health. Students are mentored by both College of Medicine faculty and community agency mentors. With the YSCVT, students will help the state’s collaborative highway safety organizations better understand how to foster safe-mindedness in each new generation of drivers and improve Vermont’s culture of highway safety.

Dr. Wendy Davis & Ashton Hideki

Dr. Wendy Davis & Ashton Hideki.

The students have been researching survey methods throughout New England’s highway safety programs; have developed a prototype survey, and are reaching out to driver educators in Chittenden County to issue the survey in alignment with the privacy protocols expected by the UVM Larner College of Medicine. Data from the survey, the rationale behind it, and suggestions for carrying the survey forward to a statewide audience will be presented in January, 2019.

Students developing this Public Health Project are Samantha Jo Bissonette; Megan Garrido, Nicholas Haslett, Ashton Hideki; William Tyler Prince; Davina Tolbert; and Catherine Westbom. Public Health Projects are directed by Jan K. Carney, M.D., M.P.H., UVM Associate Dean for Public Health. These projects were first implemented in 2004, in partnership with the United Way of Chittenden County Volunteer Center.