SAN DIEGO–The San Diego Chargers and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) teamed up during National Teen Driver Safety Week to educate teens and communities about the number one killer of teens in America: reckless and distracted driving.
Car crashes account for the deaths of 77 teenagers on average per week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in California alone, traffic collisions killed 349 young people in 2013, a headcount comparable to the capacity of more than two 737 jets.
“As a father of two children, the overwhelming statistics of teen deaths due to traffic collisions hits all too close to home,” said CHP Border Division Chief Jim Abele. “Telling a parent that they just lost their child to a collision that could have been prevented was arguably the worst experience of my career, and it is something that no family should have to endure. It is imperative that we constantly educate our teens about the dangers of distracted driving, so they can keep safety in the forefront of their minds.”
The importance of practice was not lost on San Diego Chargers team captains Darrell Stuckey and Corey Liuget, who volunteered their time to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving. These standout players recognized the parallels between focus on the football field and focusing on driving when behind the wheel.
“Safe driving is similar to making good decisions on the field; it’s all about committing your focus 100 percent to the task at hand. A distraction on the field could cost you the game—a distraction on the road could cost you your life,” Liuget said.
Just as it takes years to develop into a skilled athlete, establishing healthy attitudes and behaviors about driving begins long before teens receive their learner’s permit. Dr. Kelly Browning, Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers.
“We are here at Tierra Del Sol Middle School with the San Diego Chargers as part of the NFL Chargers Play 60 campaign today to educate kids, parents, and communities that it will take all of us to establish a safe driving culture that is distraction-free.,” Dr. Browning said. “Good decisions and healthy habits are developed over time, and once established, good habits are as hard to break as bad ones.”
Browning says by empowering pre-teens and tweens to develop healthy driving attitudes and behaviors now, the next generation of drivers, and all generations to come after them, won’t have to suffer the lifetime of pain that families and communities have to face each day across the U.S. when they lose a young person to something 100 percent preventable.
The message of empowerment and good decisions behind the wheel was reinforced by Martha Tessmer, a mother who lost her son, a star high school athlete whose dream was to play college football, to a distracted driving crash. She chooses to share her story of preventable loss because she understands the importance of reaching teens on an emotional level in order to effect long-term attitude and behavior change.
“My son, Donovan was a great athlete, scholar, and person, and made the right decisions 99 percent of the time. The time he chose not to wear his seat belt and speak up in a car full of distractions cost him his life,” Tessmer said.
The problem of reckless and distracted driving cannot be overstated but neither can the degree to which it is preventable. The CHP and local law enforcement agencies statewide, the San Diego Chargers, and Impact Teen Drivers, along with many other prominent partner organizations and community leaders, are confident that their sustained efforts will yield drivers who understand the value of practice, maintain 100 percent focus behind the wheel, and make a commitment to safe driving.