How to help stop distracted driving
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.
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.