There are many effective ways to help spread the safe driving message to America's young drivers, and at DOT we're working hard to do just that. But, every once in a while, the message that distracted driving kills gets a big boost from television.
In 2011 ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featured the family of Alex Brown, a 17-year-old student who was killed while texting and driving. The broadcast of this show brought the consequences of distracted driving into millions of American family rooms.
And last night Fox did the nation a similar service by emphasizing the dangers of texting behind the wheel in its popular series Glee.
For those who don't follow the show, the previous episode ended with one of the main characters, a high-school senior named Quinn, texting behind the wheel when she crashed her car. For weeks, producers kept the show's young viewers in suspense about the outcome. In last night's return episode, Quinn reappeared at her school in a wheelchair, her injured legs still unable to function.
The character of Quinn spent much of the episode talking about the dangers of texting and driving, and even of texting and walking. The message was reaffirmed by safe driving public service announcements throughout the show from AT&T and Allstate. It was also amplified on Twitter as fans used the hashtag #imstillstandingwithquinn enough times that it became a worldwide trending topic. And DOT's @DistractionGov Twitter account added to that effort by sharing facts, statistics, videos, and action toolkits from distraction.gov.
In fact, one of the key messages from Quinn last night was how lucky it was that she didn't kill anyone. Because in real life, distracted driving doesn't just put drivers at risk.
It was also important for viewers to realize that a crash that doesn't kill anyone can still have tragic consequences.
I am very grateful to the writers and producers of Glee for taking up the mantle in this important safety fight and helping encourage more Americans--especially teens--to talk about the dangers of distracted driving. DOT and our terrific safety partners must continue the hard work of letting America's drivers know the deadly risks of texting and talking on a hand-held cell phone behind the wheel.
Glee is fiction. But for the more than 3,000 people killed in distraction crashes in 2010 and the hundreds of thousands injured, those risks proved all too real.