Picture this: It’s summer break, and your best friend gets her first car. The excitement is overwhelming; the trips are being planned, carpools are on the table, and new doors are open to explore. She calls on you and others to fill each seat. You set a plan to go to the community pool as your first adventure. Everyone’s bags are packed, seatbelts are on, and phones are put away; you feel safe. Your friends are laughing, playing loud music, and catching up on the conversation. Your best friend seems distracted trying to keep up with everything. Pause. Rewind. How did we get here?
Some distractions are more evident than others. We know that texting while driving creates dangerous and distracting situations, but what about the actions of passengers? Can passengers be the cause of the distraction? Absolutely. Let’s go back to our story. Your best friend knew how important it was to wear a seatbelt, as did your friends. She also knew having her phone out would endanger herself and others, so she put it away. However, even though the driver removed every distraction, what happened next was out of her control. The noises from all directions became distracting and took away from her focus: the road. Your best friend in the world, people close to you, everyone nearby, and you. All in danger. What seemed like good vibes and fun times became a potentially harmful situation.
Does this story sound concerning to you? Unfortunately, it is a reality. In 2021, distracted driving ended 3,522 lives (NHTSA). When we think of distracted driving, we often consider what the driver can do better. While this is a significant factor, we should also consider what a passenger can do to help everyone stay safe. Limiting conversations, keeping music at a reasonable level, and helping with navigation are all ways to help keep the driver focused. Know that your voice has power. A role model passenger will speak up when they see someone doing something unsafe. SADD has excellent tools for you to help make this change. Your chapter can work to come up with some terrific ways to engage the community and prevent crashes.
Play. You speak up and tell your friends to let the driver focus. You turn the radio down and verbalize directions to your friend. You arrive safely to enjoy beautiful weather and quality time. You also potentially saved lives!
For additional information on the dangers of driving distracted and other key driving skills, check out the NRSF Passport to Safe Driving!
Interested in more conversations like this one? Consider joining SADD for the 2023 Summer Conference Series, a virtual event focused on celebrating youth health and safety all summer long. Learn more and register for free below!