And it worked!
From the early eighties to the mid-nineties, alcohol-related crash deaths among youth plummeted by 60 percent. Thousands and thousands of lives saved through the selfless act of speaking up to protect another.
What a concept. And one that could play an equally effective role in decreasing other threats to young drivers – and passengers – on the roadway.
What are those threats and how prevalent are they? Ninety-one percent of teens say they speed; 90 percent talk on a cell phone while driving; and 73 percent read and send text messages while driving.
And what about the passengers?
Well, almost the exact same percentages report riding in cars with drivers who engage in those behaviors behind the wheel.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that a clear majority of teen drivers say they would change their habits if their friends asked them to.
Unfortunately, many teens are reluctant to speak up when a friend is driving dangerously. For example, less than half report they would say something to the driver about speeding (41 percent), talking on a cell phone (18 percent), or text messaging (46 percent).
It’s time to change some social norms once again, just like almost thirty years ago when young people forcefully rebranded impaired driving as decidedly “uncool.”
Through the “Speak Up or Else” campaign sponsored by the Ad Council and a coalition of state attorneys general and consumer protection agencies, young people are encouraged to change social norms related to driving behaviors by, well, saying something!
The campaign asks, ”Why speak up?” And answers, “Because reckless driving is the #1 killer of 15- to 20-year-olds.”
Whatever way, the scourge of distracted, dangerous driving among teens must be addressed – and who better to address it than teens themselves? And at what better time?
Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Dangerously.
Stephen Wallace serves as national chairman and chief executive officer of SADD, Inc. (Students Against Destructive Decisions).