How to help stop dis­tracted driv­ing

San Francisco Chronicle - - OPINION - By Can­dace Light­ner Can­dace Light­ner is the founder of Moth­ers Against Drunk Driv­ing (MADD) and We Save Lives. Visit www.but­notwhile driv­ing.org for more in­for­ma­tion on how you can par­tic­i­pate.

Af­ter al­most 40 years of cam­paign­ing against drunk driv­ing, I am launch­ing a cam­paign against a new hazard: Dis­tracted driv­ing, the fastest-grow­ing cause of traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties to­day.

In 1980, my daugh­ter Cari was killed by a mul­ti­ple-re­peat-of­fender drunk driver who was still driv­ing on a valid Cal­i­for­nia driver’s li­cense. I will never for­get be­ing told by the in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­lice of­fi­cer that Cari’s killer would not go to prison or spend any sig­nif­i­cant time in jail. It opened my eyes to the pub­lic’s deadly apa­thy to­ward drunk driv­ing.

At the time, drunk driv­ing was the pri­mary cause of a grow­ing num­ber of traf­fic deaths and in­juries. But it was be­ing ig­nored.

So, we cam­paigned to make drunk driv­ing so­cially un­ac­cept­able. The work of count­less vol­un­teers — moms, dads, stu­dents and oth­ers — helped peo­ple un­der­stand that drunk driv­ing is a pre­ventable se­ri­ous crime that af­fects ev­ery­one on our road­ways. So to­day, penal­ties are stricter. In­tox­i­cated driv­ing is fi­nally seen as shame­ful and crim­i­nally ir­re­spon­si­ble. And fa­tal­i­ties caused by drunk driv­ing dropped dra­mat­i­cally.

We need to do the same thing for an­other deadly yet ac­cepted traf­fic hazard: Dis­tracted driv­ing.

Dis­tracted driv­ers now kill on av­er­age nine peo­ple ev­ery day — and yet the pub­lic does not take it se­ri­ously. A sur­vey found that 98 per­cent of driv­ers think tex­ting while driv­ing is dan­ger­ous, but 66 per­cent still ad­mit to do­ing it; 47 per­cent between the ages of 25 and 34 be­lieve tex­ting be­hind the wheel is ac­cept­able. Even as you read this, you can prob­a­bly re­call times when you’ve called friends or fam­ily and they an­swered the phone while driv­ing, or looked down to read a text.

That is why I am in­tro­duc­ing a new ini­tia­tive through my or­ga­ni­za­tion We Save Lives — and I am count­ing on you to help change the nar­ra­tive.

You know that post­script that au­to­mat­i­cally fol­lows emails sent from your smart­phone? Mine says “Sent by my iPhone.” We are ask­ing you to join the move­ment by open­ing up your set­tings and adding one cru­cial phrase to the end: “BUT NOT WHILE DRIV­ING!”

If you make this change, you will be re­peat­ing a life­sav­ing re­minder to friends, fam­ily and co-work­ers with ev­ery email you send.

When we fought drunk driv­ing 40 years ago, we urged law­mak­ers to adopt stiffer penal­ties. But the real bat­tle was won when peo­ple be­gan to re­al­ize that drunk driv­ing would no longer be tol­er­ated by their peers. With a sim­ple life-sav­ing mes­sage, we can do the same for dis­tracted driv­ing.

LM Otero / As­so­ci­ated Press 2013

Driv­ers dis­tracted by calls or texts on their smart­phones are a men­ace to oth­ers on the road, says the founder of Moth­ers Against Drunk Driv­ing, who is now cam­paign­ing against dis­tracted driv­ers.

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