Passenger safety is a growing concern in the traffic safety community. January 23 through January 30, 2022 marks the first National Passenger Safety Week, and EndDD and dozens of other traffic safety groups are using the occasion to shed light on an important issue. According to Candace Lightner, founder of the traffic safety groups Mothers Against Distracted Driving and We Save Lives, 62% of traffic deaths in 2020 were passengers. In light of this issue, EndDD and other groups encourage passengers to stand up in the face of distracted driving and inform their drivers when they don’t feel safe.
“The goal of national passenger safety week is to let passengers know that they can play a very large role in keeping us all safe,” said Joel Feldman, founder of EndDD.
One of the lessons EndDD teaches passengers is how to speak up when their driver is distracted. The organization advises that passengers use “I” statements rather than blaming their driver. EndDD has found that statements like “I love you, but I don’t feel safe when you drive me and look at your phone” are much more effective than statements such as “you’re a terrible driver” or “you’re gonna cause a crash”.
“Using an I statement and letting your driver know how you feel is powerful. It’s non-confrontational, it’s not blaming, it’s just saying I don’t feel safe when you look at your phone and drive me, and in the context of a caring relationship, the driver is likely to feel bad and put the phone down,” said Feldman.
Feldman says that all passengers should speak up when they see distracted driving, but EndDD focuses its lesson plans specifically on teens. EndDD wants to change the discourse around distracted driving so that drivers will view it as just as socially irresponsible as drunk driving and other dangerous behaviors behind the wheel.
“When I speak with teens and others, I say you guys can change the way we think about distracted driving. You can make it socially unacceptable just like we’ve done with drunk driving,” said Feldman.
EndDD also released a new PSA this year to encourage passengers to speak up in the face of distracted driving. The PSA shows the consequences of distracted driving and encourages teens and passengers of all ages to speak up in the face of distracted driving and drivers to practice safe behaviors behind the wheel so that their passengers feel safe. Feldman says that the best way to end distracted driving is to make it socially unacceptable in society, which can happen if drivers are committed to safety and if passengers feel educated and confident enough to speak up in the face of distracted driving.
In addition to teaching teens how to speak up against distracted driving, EndDD encourages them to spread awareness on how passengers can advocate for themselves. Each year, EndDD holds a video and meme contest for students to submit PSAs and other fun projects on distracted driving.
“We give prompts and one of them has always been to speak up for road safety, and we provide statistics that show more than 90% of kids would put the phone down if requested by someone else,” said Feldman.
Students have used this prompt to create a variety of their own PSAs on passenger safety, giving students the opportunity to teach their peers about the importance of safe driving and speaking up in the face of distracted driving.
National Passenger Safety Week marks a new opportunity to keep people on the road safe whether or not they are behind the wheel. By working together and spreading awareness, traffic safety groups can protect passengers and drivers alike and change the social norms of what safe driving looks like.
“I’m really excited about motivating and empowering teens particularly, but all of us as passengers to speak up. It’s dangerous to be a passenger, so we need to do what we can to protect ourselves, our drivers, and of course, everybody we share the road with. We’re all in this together,” said Feldman.