Improving Youth Traffic Safety
This entry is part of the Intern Chronicles Series, written by students interning at federal agencies who are interested in sharing their experiences with others. Patrick, from Sheridan, Indiana, interned at the U.S. Department of Transportation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Even though Patrick was studying athletic training, his personal interest and advocacy in teen driving safety led him to this internship with the NHTSA.
NHTSA Impaired Driving Youth Leader
If two years ago you told me that I was going to be the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) National Youth Leader at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m going to school for athletic training, not government or political science. But here I sit, in a cubicle on the fourth floor of the United States Department of Transportation, typing this blog for the Intern Chronicles! It is a huge honor to have this opportunity to share my story of how I got here and what I’ve learned along the way!
In June 2013, I was selected as the SADD’s National Student of the Year (SOY). Roles and responsibilities of this position include serving as a co-chair of the national student leadership council (SLC), a board member on the SADD Board of Directors, and the student voice and face for SADD National. I have relished multiple perks of being SOY, but the end-of-term Youth Leader position in NHTSA’s Impaired Driving Division has to be the best perk. This cooperative agreement allows students to experience firsthand what it is like to work as a federal government employee, attend meetings and tackle unique assignments specific to their interest areas. For example, I am very interested in Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws and Driver Education. So, I have been working closely with the NHTSA employees and national stakeholders who work with GDL and Driver Education. These two areas directly prevent injury and death among my peers and youth all around the nation, a cause which is a passion of mine. Though it is not athletic training, I am determined to find ways to work with youth and traffic safety wherever life takes me!
Working at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a unique experience. It is very different compared to other internships that my friends have elsewhere in Washington, DC. Even though I am a Youth Leader for the Impaired Driving Division, I have the pleasure of working in other divisions within NHTSA. One that I have really enjoyed working with is the Enforcement and Justice Services Division that covers Driver Education and the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. The first meetings I attended were with the Association of National Stakeholders for Traffic Safety Education (ANSTSE). With NHTSA, this group developed Novice Teen Driver Education and Training Administrative Standards to assist states in planning and implementing effective driver education systems. I had the privilege of providing a youth voice and perspective during their meeting and the experience made me feel like I was making a difference!
A goal that I set for myself for this position was to be proactive and to not just sit through the next eight weeks and leave without making something of it. So, I challenged myself to find something that I can take back to my state and work on. Some people might think that Driver Ed and GDL are some of the less exciting aspects in traffic safety. But, after my experience participating in the meetings with ANSTSE, I decided I would take these initiatives back to my state. One of my favorite assignments has been researching Driver Ed and Indiana’s GDL law. One thing I already knew going into my position, but have now experienced firsthand, is just how slow the government processes can be. Delays are aggravating when you have the passion to make a difference and nothing seems to be happening. This quote by Steve Jobs always gives me the inspiration to keep chasing my goals: “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”