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National Distracted Driving Coalition calls on passengers to speak up

*Cross-posted with permission from the US National Distracted Driving Coalition which is chaired by Robyn Robertson, TIRF President & CEO.

Children, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. These are the passengers that can pay the ultimate price when drivers choose to engage in distracted driving and other dangerous behaviors behind the wheel. Empowering these passengers to speak up to reduce risky driving is the goal of National Passenger Safety Week, which begins on Sunday, January 22. The National Distracted Driving Coalition (NDDC) strongly supports this effort and encourages passengers to pledge to take action when their driver engages in distracted driving or another unsafe behavior while responsible for their safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 – a 10.5 percent increase over 2020, and the highest number since 2005. Recent estimates for the first nine months of last year suggest only a modest decrease in 2022. Much of the recent jump in fatalities can be linked to dangerous behaviors like speeding, impaired driving, distracted driving, and failing to buckle up. National Passenger Safety Week is an important reminder that passengers can play a role in confronting all these behaviors.

Comments from Coalition stakeholders:

“A distracted driver puts everyone in the vehicle and on the road at risk. As a passenger, you have the power to make a difference. Speak up when your driver is talking on the phone, texting or is otherwise distracted and make it clear that you don’t feel safe. Offer to help with tasks like navigation that may prove distracting. And finally, remember that passengers themselves can be distracting, so make sure you aren’t drawing your driver’s attention from the roadway.”

– Bruce Landsberg, Vice Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board

“As drivers, our passengers might be our children or close friends, and we would never want to endanger them. But by allowing distractions to pull our focus from the road, that’s exactly what we’re doing. That’s why passengers play such a crucial role in speaking up and reminding drivers to focus on the task of driving. That way we all get to our destination safely.”

– Jennifer Smith, CEO, StopDistractions.org

“Recent data showing that rideshare drivers and other gig-economy workers are significantly more likely to use smartphone apps while driving should be very alarming to anyone that shares the road or shares a ride with these drivers. It can be intimidating to speak up when a stranger is driving, but it’s imperative that passengers call out dangerous behavior when they see it, and even take it a step further by providing feedback to the rideshare service.”

– Aimee Cox, Research Associate, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

“It’s important for passengers to understand that they are empowered to speak up when their driver exhibits dangerous driving behaviors. This action protects all occupants of a vehicle and averts a potentially deadly situation.”

– Janet Brooking, Executive Director, DRIVE SMART Virginia

“Whether it is teens asking other teens not to drive distracted, or teens asking mom and dad not to do so, the evidence is clear that these interventions are remarkably effective. Speaking up when you are a passenger not only keeps you and your driver safe, but everyone else we share the road with as well.”

– Joel Feldman, Founder, The Casey Feldman Foundation / EndDD.org

David Bird

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