Every day, about eight people in the United States are killed in crashes that involve a distracted driver according to the CDC. Three years ago, that statistic became my reality when a distracted driver took my son’s life. Since then, I have made it my mission to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving so that others don’t have to live through the pain of losing someone.
Every April, we have an opportunity to shine a light on this issue through events like the Josten J. Day Foundation’s Annual Race. I started the Foundation after my son’s death to combat reckless driving through education. It can happen to anyone. How many times have you taken your eyes off the road? In the five seconds it takes to look down at your phone, a car going 55 miles per hour can travel the length of a football field. While distracted driving is dangerous in any environment, it is especially treacherous in road construction work zones. Since joining Blacklidge, I have had the opportunity to learn more about driving safety through the lens of road construction workers, expanding the impact of my cause.
More than 800 people are killed in roadway works zones every year. That’s 800 families who will never see their loved one again. In an effort to ensure every road construction worker goes home safely at the end of their shift, the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) developed its Watch For Us campaign. Coinciding with National Work Zone Awareness Week, Watch For Us is a public safety campaign that calls on drivers to stay vigilant and avoid distractions like texting while behind the wheel. Watch For Us also shows us the human toll of distracted driving by featuring the true stories of road construction workers who have been injured or killed.
I’m so fortunate to be in an industry that is as passionate about reducing distracted driving as I am. To that end, the Josten J. Day Foundation has partnered with NAPA and the Watch For Us campaign to bring greater visibility to the problem and find solutions that keep us safe on the road. However, there is much more work to be done.
While many states have enacted distracted driving laws, including banning hand-held cell phones and texting, I believe that it is every single one of our responsibilities to keep our eyes and attention on the road. We can all do our part to prevent accidents from happening by educating and encouraging others to practice safe driving. We’ve all gotten used to wearing our seatbelts and strapping babies into car seats to keep us safe, so I hope that more drivers begin to practice safe driving habits like putting away their phones, opt for hands-free devices or choose not to dig through a bag while driving.
In the end, bringing awareness to distracted driving is about saving lives. While the Watch For Us campaign’s objective is to protect the lives of road construction workers across the country, the Josten J. Day Foundation focuses on protecting Mississippians’ lives by enhancing the state’s driving curriculum and providing financial support for college students. Every life we save helps honor the memory of my son.