“The $20 a week you spend on lattes might keep you awake, and the $16 you spend on a CD might keep you entertained, but the $22 you spend on a magnetic bumper tag that lets people know a teenager is behind the wheel could save your child’s life,” says Tracey Strozier of Get ‘Em Tagged (www.GetEmTagged.com).

The numbers are stark. Teen drivers between 16 and 19 years old have a fatality rate four times the rate of drivers age 25-69. Sixteen-year-old drivers have a crash rate three times that of 17-year-olds, five times that of 18-year-olds, and two times that of 85-year-olds. Over 5,000 teens die in driving accidents each year, and teen drivers are involved in crashes that cause over a half million injuries annually.

Those startling numbers are precisely why Strozier and her husband, Roderic, launched Get ‘Em Tagged (www.GetEmTagged.com), a set of programs designed to change public policy, incentivize teen drivers to use more caution behind the wheel, and alert others who are on the road that a teen driver is in their midst. “Teen drivers simply don’t have the experience to always correctly judge and respond to driving challenges,” says Tracey. “By tagging teens’ vehicles with magnetic badges, we’re increasing awareness about teen drivers’ locations on the road so that adult drivers will be more courteous and cautious, and will proactively share the road with teens.”

The Stroziers, who live in Lakeville, Minn., were spurred to take action after a brush with near tragedy. One early morning in November 2006, they received the call that all parents dread. Their son, 16, and daughter, 18, were driving home at 2:00 a.m. when their daughter swerved off the road to avoid hitting a deer. “She went off the road at a 45-degree angle at 65 miles per hour, came up out of the ravine across three lanes of traffic, and repeatedly hit the median,” Tracey recalls. “The car was totaled, and the kids were traumatized, but they didn’t suffer any injuries. We were so fortunate, but that’s not how the story usually ends.”

Now, they’re determined to do all they can to bring down the alarming statistics about teen crashes and traffic fatalities. By stepping back and allowing teenagers to step up, the Stroziers have created a viral marketing campaign to spread the message of safe driving from teen to teen. “Student advisors are working so hard to get the word out,” says Tracey. In addition to selling the $22 magnetic bumper tags that read, “Teen Driver: Share the Road. Save a Life.,” they talk to their peers, to groups of teens, and to organizations. Some are lobbying for more restrictive state driving laws that set limits on teen driving and passengers. And others have assumed the responsibility of reaching out to parents who have lost teenagers to car crashes.

In the process, the teens earn rewards. “In essence, we are trading their influence for scholarships,” says Tracey. “They earn points for working on Get ‘Em Tagged projects that translate to scholarship dollars. The teens say that these stipends are better than the pay they receive for their after-school jobs.”

Individual teens aren’t the only ones who can earn rewards. “Schools often can’t fully fund their drivers’ education and training programs,” says Tracey. “By selling Get ‘Em Tagged badges as a fundraiser, schools can compete with one another to win a car or funding for their drivers’ ed program.”

The concept of tagging vehicles with teens behind the wheel may be new to the U.S., but it’s standard practice for many other countries. “Learner plates” also known as “L-Plates” are required in England, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland, among other countries.

All signs point to the trend catching on in the United States. Tracey says that Get ‘Em Tagged’s student advisors have been overwhelmed by the positive response they’ve received from their communities. “We’ve received letters that have thrilled us, and those that have made us cry. We even received a 3,000-tag order from an insurance company that are distributing them to all of their employees.”

According to Tracey, the bottom line is that adults and teens need to band together to help prevent accidents and injuries involving juvenile driving. “The truth is, teens blare their radios and talk on their cell phones while they’re driving. They can’t do this on their own. We needed to figure out a way to help. Get ‘Em Tagged is our way of making a difference.”

About the Author

Kris Nickerson is the Editor-in-Chief of Press Direct International (www.pressdirectinternational.org), a global information website that provides reliable information tailored to professionals in financial, media, and corporate markets. His thorough knowledge of industries ranging from health care and travel to real estate and financial investing enables him to quickly grasp the nuances of emerging markets and technologies.