Saving Lives: Are We Really Doing Enough?

By Stephanie Davis

NTSB staff at the Lifesavers Booth
NTSB staff at the Lifesavers Booth – left to right: Rafael Marshall, Jenny Cheek, Deb Bruce, Kelly Nantel, Stephanie Davis, and Dennis Collins

In his opening remarks to the 2014 Lifesavers Conference, Commissioner John Schroer of the Tennessee Department of Transportation shared the story of a young couple killed on their way to a music festival in Tennessee. Their vehicle was struck from behind by an 18-wheeler as they were stopped in a traffic queue from an earlier crash . Commissioner Schroer shared that following that crash and after meeting the parents of the couple, he found himself asking “Did I do everything I could to save their lives?” “Did we do everything we could to save their lives?” Commissioner Schroer and the TN DOT knew more could be done and developed the Protect the Queue campaign.

He then posed that question to the highway safety professionals in the audience, “Are we doing all we can to protect everyone on the road?” And for everyone in the audience – the very sad answer was NO. NO, we are not doing everything we can to reach ZERO deaths.

Every year, more than 30,000 people are killed on our Nation’s roadways. And, most of those deaths are completely preventable. As a society, are we willing to accept that the price of our children going to school every day, our teens going to school football games or out with friends on a Friday night, or our spouse traveling to work, church, or the grocery store could be their life? For some 30,000 people each year, it was.

In 2014, more than 10,300 lives were taken when people impaired by alcohol decided to get behind the wheel. And more than, 3,300 more were taken by drivers distracted from the driving task. Another 3,000 lost their lives simply because they didn’t buckle up. And these numbers don’t reflect the hundreds of thousands more who are injured.

For two and half days last week, nearly 2,000 law enforcement and first responder personnel, child passenger safety technicians, manufacturers, medical and academic professionals, federal, state and local government officials, safety advocates and many others came together to do more. They came to share new research, to share innovative programs and lessons learned to address crashes caused by drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol, distracted by cell phones, to increase seat belt use, to protect newly licensed teen drivers and many more ways to reach ZERO deaths on our roadways.

But Commissioner Schroer’s questions were not just aimed at those attending the Lifesavers conference. No. He challenges us all to ask, “are we doing enough?” The NTSB is an investigative agency that determines the probable cause of transportation accidents and issues recommendations to prevent them from happening again; at the Lifesavers Conference, we had the opportunity to share what we are doing to address the preventable crashes that result in the tragic loss of life on our roadways.

We know that simply issuing recommendations won’t bring about the changes needed unless we engage with those working every day to enact legislation, develop education campaigns, enforce laws, educate families, conduct research and pursue many other avenues for saving lives. We were honored to be a part of the Lifesavers Conference and to engage in conversations about our work to reduce substance-impaired driving crashes, to strengthen occupant protection, and to eliminate distraction in transportation.

It’s been said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Want to change the world? Get involved with an organization that has a vision for reaching ZERO deaths on our nation’s roadways. To find a way to do more in your school, community or state, visit NOYS, FCCLA, MADD, AAA, Safe Kids Worldwide, FAAR, and other traffic safety organizations who are making a difference.

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