Published 9/1/2013
Michael F. Schafer, MD

On the Road, Focusing on Distracted Driving Awareness

Since 2009, orthopaedic surgeons and automakers have urged drivers to “decide to drive” behind the wheel and to avoid distractions while driving—including texting, eating, and talking on the phone. The goal of “Decide to Drive” is simple: to prevent people from being killed or hurt badly in distracted-driving–related crashes.

A summer campaign
During the past summer, the AAOS partnered with state orthopaedic society presidents on a nationwide letter-to-the-editor initiative to warn teens about the dangers of distracted driving, especially during the summer months—the deadliest months of the year for teen drivers. The AAOS public relations department helped state society presidents draft the letters and provided distracted driving crash statistics relevant to their states, and the campaign’s Wreck-less Checklist for tips on how to avoid distracted-driving and related crashes.

A news release also was distributed in conjunction with the letter-writing campaign. Letters to the editor were published in local newspapers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, and other state orthopaedic societies continue to proactively reach out to local media. More than 430 media placements were secured through the summer media outreach initiative.

Back-to-school efforts
This fall, “Decide to Drive” is partnering with Scholastic, the children’s book publisher, to roll out a student advocacy program that includes teacher materials, lesson plans, worksheets for high school students, and a national student advocacy magazine contest.

The “Decide to Drive” curriculum will be sent to approximately 200,000 high school teachers nationwide. Students across the country will assess, observe, and record distracted driving in their own communities; role play how to start a conversation with a driver about distracted driving behaviors; and research local laws, distracted driving incidences, and national statistics on distracted driving.

Additionally, educators will be encouraged to invite an orthopaedic surgeon to visit their classrooms as an expert spokesperson in support of distracted driving awareness and the Academy’s “Decide to Drive” efforts.

The program culminates with the “Decide to Drive” student magazine contest in November 2013. The top three teams will receive cash prizes for creating the winning magazines, and the winning teams’ teachers will win technology for their classrooms.

Scholastic also will feature the “Decide to Drive” campaign in the back-to-school issue of its Instructor magazine, a bimonthly publication distributed to 110,000 educators nationwide. For more information, visit www.scholastic.com/decidetodrive

Additional resources
The AAOS “Decide to Drive” campaign is an award-winning awareness/prevention campaign. Among the resources that have been available as part of the campaign are the following:

  • a Harris Interactive survey
  • an interactive website
  • print, television, and radio public service announcements (PSAs)
  • a national PSA campaign launch featuring the late Olympic heavyweight boxing gold medalist Smokin’ Joe Frazier at the National Press Club in D.C.
  • a school curriculum distributed to 10,000 5th and 6th grade classrooms across the United States
  • presence at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show
  • a student poster contest
  • a fall 2012/winter 2013 national public service campaign tour to five high schools in four cities to start the conversation about distracted driving, and to encourage students to speak up whenever they see someone driving distracted
  • active social media outreach

Michael F. Schafer, MD, chairs the AAOS Communications Cabinet.

What Can You Do?
Academy members interested in serving as a local spokesperson on distracted driving awareness in schools should contact

Other ways to get involved include the following:

  • Send your patients to DecidetoDrive.org or share a distracted driving story on the site.
  • “Like” us on Facebook at Facebook.com/DecidetoDrive.org
  • Order distracted driving awareness materials at DecidetoDrive.org
  • Write your own letter to the editor.