Making Some ‘NOYS’ on Teen Distracted Driving

/ / Youth Traffic Safety
Secretary Foxx with Teen Mentors at the NOYS Distracted Driving Summit 2014
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Do you know the number one cause of death for teens? Recently, I watched a video of high school teens who tried to answer that question. A few of them answered the question correctly, but a majority of those who answered, answered it wrong. In case you don’t know, car crashes are the #1 killer of teens in the United States, and around the globe.

NOYS Teen Distracted Driving Summit

Teens lead the summit providing lots of energy and inspiration

Teens lead the summit providing lots of energy and inspiration

That fact was one of the underlying premises during the NOYS (National Organizations for Youth Safety) Teen Distracted Driving Summit 2014 held in Washington DC during National Teen Driver Safety Week. At the summit, teen leaders from nearly 20 states gathered to learn how to engage their peers, parents and policymakers in educating everyone about the dangers of distracted driving. The summit was about creating a message of road safety and how the teens can share that message in their communities. Teen mentors took the lead at the summit, providing ideas and encouragement to the other teens in attendance and in the process creating a summit full of energy and inspiration.

Showing support of the teens’ strength and leadership, national traffic safety leaders also spoke at the summit, including:

  • Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Christopher Hart, Acting Chairman of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board)
  • Tritan Nunez, Professional Racecar Driver, and Dnt Txt N DrV Foundation

Representatives from organizations concerned about traffic safety were also in attendance at the summit, including:

  • AAA Foundation
  • AT&T
  • End Distracted Driving
  • FAAR (Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility)
  • GHSA (Governor’s Highway Safety Association)
  • NSC (National Safety Council)
  • Safe Roads Alliance
  • State Farm

Everyone attending the summit heard about the dangers of texting while driving, as well as other types of distraction. There was a clear affirmation that texting and driving is not the only cause of distracted driving. Distracted driving is any activity that takes the eyes, hands or mind off of the task of driving.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx speaking to the teens.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx speaking to the teens.

Secretary Foxx talks Distracted Driving

In his comments, Secretary Foxx praised the teens and the work they are doing to save lives, noting:

“The power of what you all bring to the table is that we can provide the information, we can advocate, we can say the words, but one of the things that helps us deepen this message to the cohort of young people who are coming along, is that we have other young people who are talking to their peers and sharing the same stories and sharing the same information and making it so clear that it is just not a cool thing to do, to put your life at risk or someone else’s life at risk by engaging in distracted driving.

So I want you to understand from my perspective, that you all are at the front lines of helping this country eliminate distraction.”

A Message of Saving Lives

During the summit, victim advocates, family members who had loved ones killed in traffic crashes and individuals who were severely injured because of distracted drivers spoke to the teens. Their comments allowed the teens to see and hear about the personal devastation caused from distracted driving.

Jacy Good talks about how her life dramatically changed because of a distracted driver.

Jacy Good talks about how her life dramatically changed because of a distracted driver.

The most powerful messages of making a difference came from Jacy Good, Hang Up and Drive, and Jeri Lynch, Conor Lynch Foundation. Jacy miraculously survived a head-on crash with a tractor-trailer at an intersection in Lancaster, PA. They both had a green light, but the tractor-trailer swerved into her lane trying to avoid a collision with a car that ran the red light. The man driving the car was talking on a cell phone. Jacy’s parents were also in the car with her and they both died in the crash.

At the hospital, Jacy was placed in intensive care and given a 10% chance of survival. After months of hospitalization, rehabilitation and an incredible determination she was able to start living a new life. Due to a traumatic brain injury she is unable to use her left arm or the lower part of her left leg and she has some cognitive issues; but none of it has stopped her from telling her story. None of it has stopped her from working to save lives, young and old.

Conor Lynch was a member of the high school cross-country team, and a distracted, unlicensed driver killed him while he was out training. Conor was a fun loving young man with friends and family who loved him and loved being with him. His mother, Jeri, spoke eloquently to the teens at the NOYS Summit of Connor’s love of family, of life, and of sports. The Conor Lynch Foundation was established to support new and existing programs that raise awareness and promote the safety of runners, pedestrians, cyclists and young drivers. Connor died tragically way too young, but he continues to influence thousands of people to be safer while on the road.

It was these stories and more that were shared with the teens to remind them that no one is safe from the devastation distracted drivers cause.

Race Car Driver Talks About Distracted Driving

Tristan Nunez on just driving

Tristan Nunez on just driving

Tristan Nunez, an 18 year-old professional race car driver also shared his message of staying focused and just driving. He talked about his mother who was driving and checking her email messages when he was a few years younger, and because of that, they were almost in a collision. Since that time, he has been sharing his message of ending distracted driving, and to not text and drive.

Tristan has even developed PSAs (Public Service Announcements) and he showed a couple of them at the summit. In one of the PSAs, Tristan stated he feels safer driving on a racetrack than driving on the street because on the racetrack everyone is going the same direction at essentially the same speed and all of the drivers are focused on driving. “On the street it’s a different story. Everyone is going in different directions, different speeds, and almost everyone is driving distracted. They are either eating, talking on their phones, or even worse they are texting and driving. Drivers that text and drive are 20 times more likely to get in a collision than drivers that don’t text and drive.”

Ending Distracted Driving

The NOYS Summit was filled with energy, laughter, tears, and truths about the dangers of distracted driving. It was a conference honored with dignitaries, celebrities and everyday people whose lives were dramatically changed because someone couldn’t wait to answer the phone or type a text. The NOYS Teen Distracted Driving Summit allowed teens to hear a message of hope and to learn what it will take to make a difference. Now, because of the summit, these teens can go back home and be leaders in the fight to end distracted driving.

What do you think? What are you going to do to stop distracted driving? Let me know in the comments below.

For a few more pictures from the Summit, look below the video.

Conor Lynch PSA

Humor applied to a serious topic with comedian David Koechnor (#DONTGETDEAD)

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