By Rob Molloy,
Acting Director, Office of Highway Safety
Annually, for the past seven years, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has issued its Traffic Safety Culture Index. And, as in past years, the 2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index has found that U.S. licensed drivers still have a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude when it comes to dangerous driving behaviors.
As a father, I try to set a good example for my children when it comes to driving. I try to drive in the manner I hope they will drive. I believe that nothing is more confusing than people who give good advice yet set bad examples.
As a professional working to reduce the crashes that lead to deaths and injuries on our roadways, the idea of my children driving is terrifying. I imagine it terrifies most parents. And with good reason: the leading cause of death for our children is motor vehicle crashes. More children between the ages of 15 and 20 die in motor vehicle crashes than by suicide, drugs, violence, and alcohol combined.
May 1st kicks off Global Youth Traffic Safety Month. This is a month dedicated to reducing the preventable deaths of youth around the world. And let there be no doubt that crashes are preventable. I had the honor of addressing young men and women from the National Collegiate Prep School, in Washington, DC, who were excited to get involved in and learn more about how they can reduce and prevent injuries and fatalities on our roadways.
Sharing my experiences with crash investigations and educating youth about some of the major concerns of driving—such as distracted, drugged, and impaired driving—and the importance of seat belt use was a thrill. Unfortunately, the world of crash investigation is full of sad stories, which I often share to help bring light to these issues. Take the case of the North Texas teen driver who fell asleep at the wheel of the family’s SUV on their way to Disney World. He was driving the family late at night after school, and the vehicle went off the road and flipped over. His parents and three siblings died. Although the NTSB ultimately did not launch to this crash, it is still a good reminder of the dangers of fatigued driving.
When it comes to our teens, we focus a lot on texting while driving—and rightly so—but fatigue is a very real problem too.
I believe that the young men and women who gathered today at the National College Prep School will be at the forefront of changing the attitudes of their peers who may act irresponsibly while driving. We too, as adults, must make the commitment to change our attitudes—from “do as I say, not as I do. If we don’t want our children to text and drive, we must not text and drive. If we want our children to be rested when driving, we must be rested. If we want our children to wear seatbelts, we must wear seatbelts.
We owe it to our children to set a good example, to show them the safe, responsible way to behave behind the wheel. We have to show them that driving is a privilege that can lead to tragic consequences if they don’t act responsibly.