This morning, I had a terrific visit with the young leaders attending the National Organizations for Youth Safety's Youth Summit on preventing teen distracted driving.
If we could end teen distracted driving through sheer enthusiasm, these teens would be a silver bullet for road safety.
The sad fact is that it will take more than enthusiasm to defeat this deadly epidemic. In 2009, the highest proportion of distracted drivers in fatal crashes was under the age of 20. And the NOYS youth leaders know this. They've seen it with their friends and classmates: drivers swerving, running red lights, narrowly missing a pedestrian because their eyes and minds are on their phones, not on the road.
Some of them, like Emily Reynolds, who lost her sister Cady, know too well the human cost distracted driving imposes on families.
And others, like Justin and Danielle Levy, who produced the runner-up entry in our Seventeen Magazine/AAA/DOT Video Challenge, have already been working on this issue.
But our young allies from NOYS are prepared for the hard, sustained effort solving this problem requires.
Yesterday, these young leaders attended our Distracted Driving Summit. They learned all about what we're doing, about what the most current research has to say, and about how to use a range of communication tools to persuade drivers to hang up their phones when they get behind the wheel.
Today they got together to begin applying what they learned. They'll be creating programs to bring back to their schools and communities to help reduce distracted driving among their peers. Projects will culminate in the spring with NOYS National Youth Traffic Safety Month.
To get a better idea of their work, you can view the 2010 NOYS projects below.
View National Youth Traffic Safety Month projects in a larger map
As NOYS Executive Director Sandy Spavone said, "The foundational goal of the work of the NOYS Coalition is that youth prevention efforts be done with youth and not to youth. We are looking forward to the leadership of these youth to provide direction and implementation of teen distracted driving prevention initiatives all across the country."
And Sandy is absolutely correct. With these young advocates' help and leadership, we hope young people will get the message about how dangerous it is to text or talk on the phone while driving. We hope they will be persuaded to take personal responsibility for the vehicles they're operating.
And if the generous help and intelligent questions from NOYS youth leaders at yesterday's summit are any indication, I have a great deal of confidence in their success.
I want to thank AT&T, The Allstate Foundation, Ford Driving Skills for Life, and The National Road Safety Foundation, whose generous support make this initiative possible.