Peer Resource organized a distracted driving campaign from April 30 to May 1, which aimed at raising student awareness of the perils of texting and driving through games, presentations and videos. As with Every 15 Minutes, Tam’s drunk driving awareness program held every four years, the challenge was to strike a balance between student engagement and student awareness.
Peer Resource did an admirable job of rising to that challenge with imperfect but positive results.
The campaign included a day of outdoor activities such as distracted driving simulators and a “cake walk,” in which students had the opportunity to earn food prizes based on their knowledge of distracted driving statistics. The aim was clear: get the message across while holding on to students’ admittedly limited attention spans.
While the activities successfully brought the issue of distracted driving to the forefront of students’ minds, the inherent impossibility of condensing a life-and-death public awareness issue into lighthearted games was obvious. The issue felt disconnected from the activities, and some students failed to take the matter at hand seriously. Driving a tricycle around a high school basketball court while texting simply isn’t analogous to the high stakes scenario of texting while driving a car. Ultimately, it’s the fault of neither flippant students nor Peer Resource that the distracted driving activities fell short of having a true impact: there’s no way to simulate or accurately describe the true seriousness of a situation without stories from victims and survivors.
What the activity portion of the campaign lacked in seriousness and impact, though, was made up for during the distracted driving assembly. Speaker Bobby Augusto closed the event with a touching presentation about his daughter Kimberly, who was killed by a driver who was texting. Similar to speakers during the Every 15 Minutes presentation, the Marin parent shared his pain and brought the dangers of distracted driving into perspective.
Augusto was personable and his description of Kim’s final conversation with her mother moments before the car took her life made up for the emptiness of the earlier activities. Augusto’s cautionary tale made clear the purpose of the campaign and brought the issue home for students. In the end, both parts of the campaign had a place. The activities, though perhaps too lighthearted for such a serious problem, opened conversation on the subject matter, and Augusto’s presentation provided much needed perspective.
What students should hold in mind when participating in seemingly silly activities or even watching the Every 15 Minutes “car crash” is the lives lost, families destroyed and victims harmed. The power of student awareness campaigns comes from the intersection of both heart-wrenching stories from those directly impacted and the realization that these dangers are a constant and very real presence in our lives as well.