It has been a summer filled with vacations, working new jobs and making new friends as our neighborhoods grow. It has also been a summer where as a community we have experienced sad and tragic events— some of which hit close to home.
The time approaches now for our children to return to school and continue their growth toward good citizenship, higher learning and vocations that will lead them to a great future. As a parent and as your Fire Chief, I urge you as parents, uncles, aunts, mentors, teachers and pastors; anyone who has great influence to take the opportunity to have a real meaningful discussion with those you love who are young drivers or are driven by young drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.
According the report filed in April 2015 by the US Department of Transportation, National Highway Transportation Administration, there were 3,154 people killed and an estimated additional 424,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013. The report went on to state that ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time in all of the crashes. In 2013, there were 480 non-occupant motorist, pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists killed in distraction-affected crashes.
These are serious but preventable tragedies by taking the time to have a real meaningful discussion about the immeasurable consequences of lives lost and families devastated when someone gets behind the wheel of a vehicle and makes a conscious choice to drive distracted. Our young drivers need to understand that it is a conscious choice to risk their life and the lives of others when driving and talking on a cell phone or texting or applying makeup or reaching down for something on the floor. They need to understand that no matter how good of a driver they think they are, there is no way that they can maintain 100 percent control of the vehicle while being distracted and taking their eyes off the road
It is just as important to have the same discussion with those who are driven by our young drivers. Assuring they have a real understanding about the dangers of distracted driving and the importance of not being a distraction to the driver in any way.
This discussion should include real life strategies to empower and support them with an alternate plan if they ask to get out of the vehicle. To give them a strong voice to let the driver know that they have a say in their own health and wellbeing when riding with someone who makes the conscious choice to drive distracted.
Together as a community, we can reduce the number of preventable tragedies caused by distracted drivers through real meaningful discussions, planning for a safe alternative and empowering our young drivers and passengers through good example, and by practicing the same principles we teach as the most important influence in their young lives. Let’s welcome everyone back to school, safe and sound.