Educating the Educators

By Nicholas Worrell

Nicholas Worrell, Chief, Office of Safety Advocacy and Nicholas Webster, Medical Officer addressed 2016 Dori Saves Lives Driver Education Conference in Boca Raton, FL
Nicholas Worrell, Chief, Office of Safety Advocacy (front right) and Nicholas Webster (front left), Medical Officer addressed 2016 Dori Saves Lives Driver Education Conference in Boca Raton, FL

Twenty years ago, Florida State Legislator, Representative Irving “Irv” Slosberg, lost his teenaged daughter, Dori, to a tragic car crash. Slosberg mourned and still mourns, in the particular manner known only to a parent who must bury a child.

But he also began the Dori Saves Lives Foundation. Since Dori’s crash, Irv has worked tirelessly to find effective ways to save lives and prevent injuries on our roads.

In the subsequent twenty years, he turned his family’s tragic loss into an ongoing effort to educate, legislate, and develop rigorous enforcement strategies that can make a difference. The Dori Saves Lives Foundation is collaborating across Florida to prevent people from driving distracted, fatigued, or impaired.

Dori Saves Lives is working to advance the education of the most vulnerable drivers, our youth. The foundation provides tools to driver educators, the frontline leaders responsible for transferring knowledge, skills, and attitudes to our young drivers.

Last week, NTSB Medical Officer Nicholas Webster and I had the opportunity to address more than 200 driver educators at the annual Dori Saves Lives Driver Education Conference. Like the NTSB, Dori Saves Lives is working to End Substance Impairment in Transportation. Doctor Webster joined a panel of legislators, states’ attorneys, and law enforcement professionals to discuss the current and potential future dangers of drugged driving.

Many in the audience were not aware of the hazards that a simple over-the-counter (OTC) cold medication poses to driver safety:

“A single dose of this medication,” said Dr. Webster “can impair us as much as a blood alcohol level of 0.100%.”

N-Webster-at-DoriDr. Webster went on to discuss the dangers that drivers impaired by synthetic cannabinoids pose to themselves and others on the road, pointing to the grim tragedy in Davis Oklahoma. Like OTC medicines, synthetic cannabinoids are often perfectly legal substances, and are not required to be tested for in commercial transportation.

Dr. Webster’s presentation provided educators with an improved understanding of these and other safety topics to pass on to their students.

The National Safety Council estimates an 8 percent increase in highway fatalities from 2014 to 2015, with substantial increases in some states – the largest year-over-year increase in nearly 50 years. South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia had increases in traffic fatalities ranging from 16 to 22 percent. This is a sharp uptick from a trend that had declined for many years and then leveled off.

The NTSB continuously advocates for recommendations that will result in saving lives. But we can only recommend, make the facts widely known, and hope that others – from grass-roots organizations to state legislatures to manufacturers – continue the work needed to make our roads safer. With thousands of our young people already dying on the roads each year, the recent uptick in the trend is especially distressing.

But Dori Saves Lives, and groups like it, are on the front lines of turning this distressing new trend around, particularly for our youngest, most vulnerable drivers. One important way to do so is to provide up-to-date information that driver educators can teach their students.

I helped kick off the conference by reading some headlines about crash deaths among young people in Florida. Each of those headlines is the beginning of a story, and each of those stories is an incomplete sketch of a young person’s life – or death.

Had Dori Slosberg lived, she might be raising young people of her own, and reading up on how to keep them safest when they get out on the road. But through the Dori Saves Lives Foundation, Irv Slosberg and many others are helping to prevent future tragedies among our youth. We want to thank Irv Slosberg for allowing us to share Dori’s memory. Like Irv, we think the best way to honor her life is to saves others’.

Nicholas Worrell is the Chief, Safety Advocacy Division

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