The Community Alliance for Teen Safety was founded in 1996 after the greater Derry area experienced 11 fatal crashes involving teen drivers during an 18-month period in 1995 and 1996.

Dr. Joseph Sabato, an emergency room doctor at Parkland Medical Center, began to look at the crash epidemic while treating some of the victims and counseling their families. Dr. Sabato initiated the first taskforce meeting with the Derry Police Department, Derry EMS and the NH Medical Examiner’s Office to look for causes and solutions. According to data compiled from the Derry Police Department, Department of Safety Fatal Accident Reporting System and Statewide Crash Data teen drivers were involved in more than 40% of all crashes during this time.

Follow-up taskforce meetings attracted more individuals, stakeholders and  organizations from surrounding communities to the table. Local high-school students who lost friends or peers were involved from the start. Lack of seat belt use was identified as a common factor in the deaths of the teens. In addition, risky behavior and the need for increased parent involvement in their children’s driver education were also identified.

CATS focused on public outreach and education about safe driving as well as spearheaded legislation to support a graduated licensing bill for teens, to increase the mandatory seat belt age from 12 to 18, to review driver education programs, and to enact mandatory license suspension for moving violations of individuals under 20.

All four pieces of legislation passed and were signed into law in 1997. Then Governor Jeanne Shaheen came to the Pinkerton Academy campus in Derry to sign the legislation into law. The Community Alliance for Teen Safety (CATS) was formed as a result of this grassroots effort. After its first year of operating with volunteers and donations, CATS received a 4-year seed grant from the NH Highway Safety Agency to support continued safe communities efforts. In recognition of its safe communities efforts, CATS was awarded the International Safe Communities Special Achievement Award in 2000.

With strong community  support and commitment CATS has continued its efforts to build a collaborative approach to solving issues impacting the health and safety of youth and families in the Derry area.


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