The fight to end distracted driving is happening all across the country. And yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of exceptional young people from the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) who are helping to lead the charge.
I first met some of these young NOYS safety advocates after the 2010 Distracted Driving Summit in September. They attended our meeting to gather more information about distracted driving and share ideas for how to best reach other teens with their message--that no phone call or text message is more important than a life.
This time, the Teen Distracted Driving Prevention Leadership Team--with help from the Allstate Foundation--traveled to Washington to take their efforts to the next level.
The twenty young leaders, who were selected by NOYS during a competitive application process, fanned out across the District to shadow traffic safety specialists and learn about careers in transportation.
Some were mentored by folks right here at DOT, while others learned the ropes at the Roadway Safety Foundation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Allstate, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), and the AAA Foundation.
As NOYS Executive Director Sandy Spavone said, "These young people have great dreams and aspirations for their careers. And no matter what they want to be or become, we want to show them that there are opportunities in transportation and traffic safety for them to pursue."
But these teens aren't just here to listen--they're also here to speak out. And today, they took their message to their elected leaders on Capitol Hill.
The NOYS team, which has members from seventeen states, are meeting with their Senators and Representatives to ask them to support stronger traffic safety laws that will help reduce the number of teen driving crashes.
"Teens really do care about their safety when they're on the road, and they want the support of our leaders to back up their efforts," said Sandy Spavone.
And combating distracted driving is at the top of their priority list. For some, it's a personal cause. Emily Reynolds, who is featured in our Faces of Distracted Driving series, lost her big sister Cady when a teen driver who was texting behind the wheel slammed into her car.
For others, local distracted driving incidents inspired them to take action. Allyson Lumpkin, a junior at Georgia Southern University, said: "We lost three teenagers in one accident. It was such a huge thing, and I just knew something had to be done. This opportunity with NOYS isn't just a chance to learn--it's a chance to bring this information back to my community."
With passionate young people like Allyson out there working to raise awareness, I'm confident we can save lives. And I hope their interest in road safety will eventually blossom into a full-fledged future in transportation.
I know at least one NOYS member who is already considering his career path. Elliot Johnson, a high school sophomore from Brookings, South Dakota, spent a day in our Public Affairs office:
"I'm so excited--I already want to come back and be here again tomorrow!"
I share his enthusiasm--and these tremendous young leaders are welcome here at DOT anytime.