If you’re a teenager, how do you tell drivers—your friends, your parents, or others—that they need to focus on the road?
This fall and winter, the “Decide to Drive” campaign, a partnership between the AAOS and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance), is visiting high schools across the country to provide teens with the tools to do just that—start and continue the life- and limb-saving conversation on the dangers of distracted driving.
The first program took place Oct. 5 at Niles North High School in Skokie, Ill., near Chicago. More than 100 students viewed an introductory video on the dangers of distracted driving, including statistics on injuries and fatalities, and skits by a team of improvisational actors. The actors provided students with a humorous but serious look at what not to do while driving, and how to initiate the sometimes awkward and uncomfortable conversation about distracted driving with peers, parents, and other drivers.
Leon S. Benson, MD, vice chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet, also attended. He and a Skokie police officer discussed the legal ramifications and potential injuries—including death—that can occur when drivers do not give their full attention to driving. The students received tips and materials to help ensure that they—and anyone who drives with them—continue to think about, and consciously work to prevent, distracted driving.
“The Niles North students were engaged and truly appreciated the program’s message,” said Dr. Benson. “As orthopaedic surgeons, we put bones and limbs back together after road crashes and trauma. We have an obligation to work toward preventing distracted driving injuries, especially among young drivers, and to keep them and their passengers safe and strong for life.”
“The event and its effective message were well-received by our staff and students,” said Paul Swanson, director of public welfare at Niles North High School. “We are grateful for this powerful partnership, which we hope will prevent future distracted driving tragedies.”
The event was covered by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and several community newspapers, expanding the impact of the “Decide to Drive” program message.
On Dec. 4, AAOS President John R. Tongue, MD, will accompany the improv troupe and the “Decide to Drive” team to a high school in Mesa, Ariz. Programs also are planned for high schools in the Denver and Greenville, S.C., areas early next year.
Since 2009, the AAOS and automakers have urged drivers to “decide to drive” behind the wheel and to avoid texting, eating, talking on the phone and to passengers, and other distractions while driving. The award-winning awareness/prevention campaign includes an interactive website; print, television, and radio public service advertisements; an elementary school educational curriculum; and active social media outreach.
“Young drivers—or any driver, for that matter—should have the safe operation of their car or truck as their first priority. That means eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” said Robert Strassburger, Auto Alliance vice president of safety. “Going out into schools and talking to students is one of the best ways we can spread that message. Our efforts also help to empower parents to communicate our ‘Decide to Drive’ guidance forward.”
Dr. Benson urges other AAOS fellows to reach out to teens and their parents and start the distracted driving conversation in their own communities, using AAOS and “Decide to Drive” information and materials. It’s an opportunity to promote orthopaedics and your practice, while delivering a message to prevent crash-related injuries.
“We need to share this important, life-saving message with teens, their parents, and all drivers,” said Dr. Benson.
The AAOS has a variety of educational tools and resources to help implement the distracted driving conversation and promote orthopaedics—including a tool kit, posters, postcards, and other materials. Visit DecidetoDrive.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on bringing this initiative to a high school near you.
Michael F. Schafer, MD, is chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet.