April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Hang Up and Drive to Save Lives

By Grace Bellinger, NPHR Blog Editor

Every year in the United States, approximately 3,500 people lose their lives to cell phone-related car crashes. Such a death rate qualifies as an epidemic. An inspiring couple is traveling the country educating people of all ages on the dangers of distracted driving and saving lives through their movement, Hang Up and Drive.

The data should be reason enough to focus on the road, but Jacy and Steve’s story necessitates change at the personal, corporate, and government levels. Jacy Good’s life changed forever on her college graduation day. She was finishing college with the love of her life and a job lined up with AmeriCorps. Following the ceremony, Jacy and her parents were about halfway back to her hometown when tragedy struck. Their station wagon was hit by an 18-wheeler that had swerved to avoid a teenage driver using his phone on speaker mode and attempting to turn left through a red light.

Jacy’s life was tragically altered by a teenager who couldn’t put their phone away. Both of her parents died at the scene of the crash, and Jacy was barely kept alive by a paramedic who fortunately lived nearby. After being given a 10% chance of survival the night of the wreck, Jacy is alive to share her story, but remains partially paralyzed.

Jacy Good visited Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine last September with her now husband, Steve Johnson, to share their story. The talk was given as the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences Grand Rounds, with several clinicians and trainees in the audience. The seminar moved some to tears and inspired tremendous discussion within Feinberg. While already making an impact within the Northwestern community alone, Jacy and Steve have shared their story with approximately 900 different audiences across the United States.

The couple has spoken at countless high schools across the country. Students of that age have heard about the dangers of using cell phones while driving their entire lives, but they also have an obligation to change their parents’ habits. Distracted driving involves more than just texting. Everyone is guilty of turning their attention away from the road momentarily to change a song or just check who is calling. While those distractions may be much shorter term than making a phone call or writing a text, taking your eyes off of the road for even a few seconds can be enough for tragedy to occur. We all have a duty to practice mindful driving by focusing on the task at hand – keeping yourself and those around you safe.

People die from crashes similar to Jacy’s experience every day. Every single day. That should be enough to stop you from texting or calling while driving. If it’s not enough, the next time you reach for your phone while driving take a moment to imagine how you would feel if you were the cause of an innocent person’s death. Imagine you just killed a newly married couple as they were bringing their newborn baby home for the first time simply because you needed to check the score of a baseball game. Imagine you just ended the life of a man in the military on his way back from the airport to surprise his fiancé because you wanted to take a video through your windshield. Only the death rate was reported above, but so many more people are left with life-long disabilities. Imagine you hit a pedestrian, leaving her severely cognitively impaired after having been accepted to the law school of her dreams the week earlier all because you were sending a text. How would you feel knowing you alone are responsible for all the suffering that will result from your carelessness?

If you are inspired to make a change, here are some steps that can make a difference:

  • Stop using the word “accident”. Instead refer to such an incident as a crash, collision, or wreck as news sources are encouraged to do nowadays. Car crashes due to phone use are preventable, and the word accident implies that no one is responsible.
  • Be mindful enough to load podcasts or find a desirable radio station before pulling out of your driveway or leaving your parking spot.
  • Install an app to prevent distracted driving for you or a loved one, such as a significant other, roommate, or teenager. Jacy and Steve tested several apps and recommend LifeSaver.
  • Encourage car and cell phone companies as well as government representatives to respond to these statistics. Such groups could have great influence if enough people advocate on behalf of the Hang Up and Drive movement. Jacy can be seen in this AT&T “It Can Wait” campaign commercial which went viral.

Everyone has emails to respond to today. Everyone has people to contact about something. Everyone seeks sports, weather, or news updates now and then. None of the aforementioned activities are so urgent that they are worth a human life. Drive with the same level of focus that you would expect from people driving in the cars surrounding you, your children, or your significant other. Hang Up and Drive.

 

 

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About NPHR Blog (272 Articles)
The is the blog of the Northwestern Public Health Review journal. The blog and journal are both student run and contain research articles, opinions, interviews and other content pertaining to public health.

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