Responsibility.org has the honor of working with some of the best criminal justice practitioners in the country. They serve on our Judicial Advisory Board and provide input on our efforts. A few years ago, they urged us to expand our thinking as it relates to drunk driving. They urged us to think more comprehensively and to use the term impaired driving instead of drunk driving.
Flash forward a few years and their advice is more important than ever. Traffic fatalities are on the rise after years of declines. Drunk driving remains the cause of about one-third of those fatalities and is our top priority for decreasing traffic crashes. However, the drunk driver of 2017 is different than the drunk driver of 1997. Today’s impaired driver is likely combining an array of dangerous behaviors: Distraction, drowsiness, and drugs along with other more traditional safety issues such as speed and failure to wear a seat belt. The impaired driver of today is often more than drunk. It is more accurate to say impaired. Our judges were spot on with their advice (as usual). As we proceed ahead with our work, you will begin to see us focusing on impaired driving. Does that mean we are trying to take the focus away from drunk driving? Absolutely not.
Responsibility.org prides itself on its ability to lead. We have repeatedly identified emerging issues and launched programs with our partners to address them in assisting states and communities. Drunk driving prevention has always been and will remain our highest priority. However, traffic safety issues cannot be addressed in silos if we are to truly make an impact in reducing traffic fatalities. If we focus on drunk driving and exclude distracted driving, drugged driving, and drowsy driving, we will miss an opportunity to save lives.
The term “impaired driving” is not necessarily the best search term on the web, but it is much more accurate. That’s why we have partnered with almost 40 organizations to promote the End Impaired Driving PSA campaign and educate people about the broader picture of impaired driving. We welcome any groups to join the campaign and we hope you will let us know if you would like to be added.
My son, AJ, is now an only child. My daughter is in heaven and has been since she was 5 years old. We have had many discussions about difficult topics, beginning with explaining why his sister is in Heaven. We talk about alcohol and drugs a lot. Most of the time it is just him and me in the house and I love our conversations. This week he will begin 4th grade. We live less than a half mile from his school and he has asked if he can walk to school or ride his bike on his own every day. It would be good exercise, he says. I know he’s right.
I think about my childhood and I know that I was walking that far to my bus stop each day on my own when I was only six years old. So, why am I struggling with this request? Is it because I know too much about traffic crashes? Pedestrian and bicycle deaths have increased sharply in the last few years.
In August, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) reported that 73% of their high school students who participated in a roadway safety assessment reported they felt unsafe using intersections near their schools. Highlights of the report (sponsored by State Farm) include:
- 40% of schools reported that their school pedestrian crosswalks were not painted properly (29 out of 71)
- 47% of schools reported that their crosswalk signals did not allow an adequate amount of time to safely cross the street (34 out of 71)
- Only 9% of schools reported having crossing guards at intersections (7 out of 71)
- Only 19% of areas near schools were properly marked as school zone areas (14 out of 71)
I really want to honor his request for independence and exercise. Maybe we will start by walking together so I can show him how to be on the defense for dangerous drivers and to survey the safety of our intersections before giving him a kiss goodbye at our doorstep.
We will also continue our conversations about alcohol and underage drinking. For those conversations, my number one resource is the Ask, Listen Learn program and Simone Biles!