It seems like the right time of year to talk about people who are working hard in their communities to make life better for others. So today I'd like to talk about Jay Anderson and the organization he started to reduce distracted driving, Stay Alive...Just Drive.
In September, 2003, Jay's wife was speedwalking near their home in southwestern Florida. A teen driver talking on a cell phone hit Mrs. Anderson, knocked her into a ditch, and sped on, leaving her behind with multiple fractures.
Jay, a retired EMS captain, soon added a campaign against distracted driving to his already impressive list of community engagment, including the Board of Directors of the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition, the Community Traffic Safety Team, the Traffic Intervention Management Team, the Hwy 27 Safety Task Force, and the American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association.
But, Jay explains, "In 2003, I was all alone out there. Even AAA didn't recognize the threat distracted driving posed. I was a little bit ahead of the curve, and it was hard to get anyone's attention."
Today, it's a different story.
"Teaming up with Smoltz was the corner we turned," says Anderson of his friend and SAJD spokesperson MLB pitcher John Smoltz. "Thankfully, we found a sponsor to get that PSA on the air."
Now, Stay Alive...Just Drive is supported by thousands of members and a host of partners. They recently partnered with the State of Florida on a summertime public awareness campaign. Their advocacy and educational programs have made a difference in more than 10 states, several cities and counties, and nations as divergent as Switzerland and India.
Their longtime work is suddenly resonating. Their recent PSA contest winner, for example, is entitled "Message Received," and tries to show drivers that it's not just sending text messages or emails that can be so distracting. "I was driving to work yesterday," Jay effuses, "And what do I hear on NPR? A story about how reading messages can be even more distracting than sending them!"
Says Jay about his years of hard work to increase safety in his community:
"It's all about involvement. I saw a problem; my first reaction was to try and fix it. Not to leave it for someone else."
Jay is absolutely right. Let's not leave this problem for others to solve when the answer is within every driver's reach: Stay alert; stay focused; stay alive...just drive!