On the National Safety Council (NSC) website, Jacy Good tells her incredibly sad story with slurred speech and as much composure as she can muster.
On the day she graduated college, Good was in a celebratory mood while in a car with her parents and brother. Then they were blindsided by young driver distracted by his cell phone.
Her parents were dead on the scene. Good suffered severe head injuries that have robbed her of some cognitive function and most of her mobility.
Hers is just one of several sobering testimonials that try to pull at your heartstrings to decrease accidents due to distracted driving. Since the NSC page was posted, the effort has turned into a national program that has taken a humorous twist to get your attention while you drive.
The state of Iowa is known more for its corn, pig farms, and presidential caucuses, yet not usually for being funny. But it began something big when it posted a road sign that says: “Take Your Heads Out of Your Apps.”
Now being adopted by a number of other states, the message has drivers laughing their way to safety. For more than a year, the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) has been posting a variety of impossible to miss road signs on its main highway, Interstate 35.
Some are humorous, others are just plain sobering, such as the body count on the number of drivers and passengers killed during certain chunks of time. The combination has Iowans, and other states, paying attention.
Tennessee’s DOT variation, “Eyes on the Road and Your Head Out of Your Apps,” is accompanied by another message with a Southern drawl: “Buckle Up, Y’all, It’s the Law.”
Elsewhere, Massachusetts launched a road sign in 2014 that said, “Use Yah Blinkah.” If you don’t get it, it plays on the local accent in which the letter R is dropped in all possible cases. If you live in “Bahston,” you get it.
In Colorado, state troopers simply flooded the highways on one weekend in March to crack down on texting while driving. The state also has been using the “app” message.
Some states are now even having public contests for citizens to come up with the next clever, yet meaningful message. Massachusetts received about 500 entries for its message.
State transportation spokespersons note that while they appreciate the effectiveness of clever messages, they want them short to get your attention back on the road as quickly as possible. They mix them up to keep you from getting too acclimated to the same one, which translates to your forgetting it.
In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the Volunteer Society of America (VSA). More than 400,000 more were injured. The distractions have largely come from all the things you can do on your smartphone.
The VSA reports that in December 2012 more than 171 billion test messages were sent or received. It’s now a well-known fact that many people have become addicted to smartphones, and social media apps in particular. So much so, that they will risk their lives while driving to avoid missing something “important” like what the Kardashians are up to.
A Tennessee DOT spokesperson said while the state realizes the message could be construed as smart-alecky, or even a little distasteful, she added that a “clever message can get people talking and having a conversation — even for a minute.” If it saves one life, then any backlash is worth it. Besides, you hear far worse on TV any night of the week.
Advice on this issue is pretty basic. You may even feel it insults your intelligence. First, turn off your phone. Unless a nuclear strike from Russia is imminent, you’re not missing anything really important.
Second, don’t text while you’re driving. You know that’s not very smart, but when you’re on the highway in your car, how many people have you seen doing it? Heck, a deadly crash can happen in the blink of an eye when you take a second to look down and change the music stream.
Smartphones have literally changed the way we live, much to the good. If you have one, can you remember what your life was like when you didn’t? It’s like trying to remember when you actually had to enter a bank and talk to an actual person to get cash.
But they were never engineered to be used in a car if you’re the driver. Yes, there are devices now that keep your hands completely free, but the potential for distraction is still there. Some states have even outlawed the use of cell phones while you’re driving, and you still see people talking on them all the time.
You have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Seriously ask yourself. Watch some of the videos of the brave souls who have been willing to share their tragedies so that you might seriously think about it.
Jacy Good has spent the past seven years trying to piece her life back together, and she wasn’t even the one driving. Whatever it is – a call from a friend, a text, an app that tells you whatever it is you think you need to know – it can wait.
June 12, 2015
Janet O’Dell, RN