This week I have had the pleasure of speaking with hundreds of students at Abington Senior High School in Montgomery County, PA about distracted driving. I have been giving a presentation prepared by EndDD as part of the 60ForSafety 2012 End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative. I have been joined by a number of my partners as well as County Commissioner, Josh Shapiro. A few thing stand out for me from this experience.
I was impressed by how seriously the students took what was being presented. It was fascinating to see them watch the videos. The expressions on their faces said a lot about how much they cared about this issue and how shocked they were about the dangers. When I played the video with the Canadian bus driver who had been caught doing paperwork while driving, I could see the students, student after student, mouthing "Oh my G-d" and "Holy Sh**." You could tell that they realized how serious the problem was and how ridiculous it is to drive while using a cell phone or being distracted.
We discussed who was at fault in the case of two sisters who were texting each other when one of them died when she lost control of her truck, struck the median and was ejected. In the end, while many did not want to "hold at fault" the one sister who was at home sending texts to her sister who was driving, we all agreed that it was not a good idea to send texts to someone who was driving. And more importantly, I could see the students, when asked to pretend to be in the shoes of the surviving sister, realize that even if everyone else forgave them, they would find it difficult to forgive themselves if they had been texting someone who ended up having an accident as a result.
We did a lot of role playing and the students came up with many good ideas about how to ask a driver to pay attention to the road when they are a passenger in a vehicle with a distracted driver. While there were emotions to overcome, (fear, anxiety, annoyance, embarrassment) it seemed clear that the students realized that it was worth putting their own and the driver's feelings aside when it came to speaking up for their safety.
The students were also very forthcoming about their own mistakes with the use of cell phones or other distractions while driving. They also realized that their parents, who they admittedly look to as role models, were among the worst offenders. My take away on this was that as adults we need to do a better job of modeling safe, undistracted driving. Many students came up to thank me personally after the presentation and to tell me that they had learned a lot and that the looked forward to being a part of the solution by raising awareness in others. In particular, many also told me how they intend to now hold their parents to a higher standard. I have already received two calls from parents whose children spoke to them about the presentation and that they would now do a better job of being role models as a result.
By the end of next week, I will have been involved in the education of over 1800 students. I am hoping to reach 1000's more and hope that others will join me in this effort. So far, I know of over 800 trial lawyers who have signed up to give these talks. Together we can reach hundred's of thousands of students. This will save many lives and impact many more.
It took a tragic event for me to get involved in this issue and to become a better driver as a result. My hope is that it takes far less, maybe only a 45 minute presentation, for these students to change the way they and others drive.