US schools get distracted driving message

Main Image
Students mock up a car crash to highlight dangers of distracted driving.
Students mock up a car crash to highlight dangers of distracted driving.

In the first of our youth blogs for 2016, road safety campaigner Josh Sorbe, from South Dakota, explains how he has taken the message about the dangers of distracted driving to his student peers:

When I first became involved with distracted driving reform through Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), I wasn’t surprised by the gravity of the statistics. As the leading cause of death among those ages 15 to 29, the issue has dramatically grown to affect youth and adults alike. Brought upon us by the Information Age, distracted driving is a relatively new issue facing our society today. Many people do not recognize the potential consequences that unfocused driving can have. One statistic that always stands out in my mind is “75% of people think distracted driving is acceptable.” (Justin Worland, Time Magazine, November 2014). Shouldn't the very real consequences that are possible prove otherwise? In a society that is unenlightened towards the gravity of the situation, resisting the temptation to succumb to the status quo is difficult. Multiple pressures dilute a person’s rational thinking. The most effective way to address this issue, in my opinion, is through peer-to-peer education.

For example, I was the coordinator of a mock car crash at my school. The crash consisted of three scenes: the crash, funeral, and trial. The crash featured scrap cars staged to look like an accident had taken place, with local EMTs, police, coroners, and fire rescue performing typical duties. We made the funeral especially impactful by having the deceased’s parents and friends attend. Seeing a classmate’s own funeral helps put students into perspective the reality of the situation. Finally, the trial showed the judicial implications of distracted driving by convicting the perpetrator to ten years in prison for reckless endangerment and manslaughter.

As a National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) Peer Mentor and National FCCLA President, my goal was to spread my passion for distracted driving prevention, and the mock crash did exactly that. The mindset in my high school shifted, and distracted driving began to develop a very strong negative connotation. Awareness projects like these ignite thought among citizens, encouraging them to challenge the current situation.

On an issue like distracted driving, taking the initiative is rewarding. Many national and global initiatives have been taken to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 3.6, to half the amount of deaths and injuries on the roads by 2020. The more we speak out against distracted driving, the more people listen. Stepping out of our comfort zone and addressing distracted driving can save lives. Through the FIA Foundation and its partners’ initiatives like the 7% Campaign, International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), and Safe Schools, traffic safety can continue to become a prioritized safety issue. In the end, we have potential to prevent the destruction of others, and we need to continue to act until distracted driving has been effaced.