Teen Driver Safety Week – A Practical Interlude

Notable advocates of teen driver safety argue compellingly that teenagers drive unsafely because they lack experience.  To protect teen drivers–and everyone on the road–therefore, authorities have stipulated rules intended to mitigate the effects of inexperience.  In theory, deferring to these rules, rather than acting on impulse (as experienced drivers do), will make teenagers safer drivers.  –Until they have experience, that is, whereupon they will supposedly drive safely anyway.

Of course, we would never discourage teen drivers from following the rules, nor dissuade parents from insisting on them before handing their teenaged children the keys. They are good rules, absolutely, based on experts’ sound assessments of empirical fact.  Nonetheless, we would suggest that the rhetoric of “inexperience” oversimplifies the situation in a potentially counterproductive manner.  Namely, it undermines parents’ ability to communicate the rules’ value to their teenaged children–which parents should want to do, since internalizing that value would enable their teenaged children deftly to intuit serious dangers on the road. That’s how one develops wisdom, after all:  by intuition.  And, wisdom is what teen drivers really need.  That’s what experience is for; it’s simply a reliable (and intersubjective) means to wisdom.

Sympathy, then, is the key to effective communication–authentic sympathy–which oversimplification precludes. But, how do we sympathize with teenagers, if we suppose them to lack experience, the only ground on which separate subjectivities can possibly meet?  Consider the following: Teenagers are actually quite experienced–only that their experience is not conducive to safe driving. One must study the experience they have (not the experience they could or should have) in order to sympathize authentically.  

Qualities of fiction color teenagers’ experience, which, therefore, wrongly (or impractically) conditions their expectations.  Rather than pertaining to what we might naively call “reality,” the experience they have pertains to a construct, which we expediently call the “teenage aesthetic.” In lieu of practical schemata whereby to interpret sensory information, nevertheless determined to act with purpose, teenagers act to realize an ideal of beauty according to this aesthetic.

They expect certain performances to issue in certain tropical narrative patterns.  They expect structure in life, but structure aligned with convention, not causality. For example, driving fast characterizes a boy as a rebel.  Naturally, being a character of that type affords him to seduce a particular girl. Even when the girl isn’t watching him drive, yet he must drive fast–indeed, he must be a character of that type in order to live the dramatic arc conventionally associated therewith.  He must act out his role, as if begging the applause of some all-seeing, if tasteless, deity.

As an experienced driver, no doubt, you put away such fantastic notions long ago.  Remember, though, that the teenage aesthetic really does affect teenagers’ behavior. They actually believe life unfolds (or should unfold) by the logic of poetry.  And, if you think about it, that belief isn’t so strange:  before the advent of science, the generality of mankind believed similarly.

You don’t have to be a teenager to know something about the teenage aesthetic–and, most important, to predict how it will condition a teenager’s expectations.  Watch The Wonder Years or read something by S.E. Hinton and you will get a fairly good conception of it.  Ask yourself, “What would someone who sees beauty herein believe he should do to realize that ideal himself?”

Above all, though, the next time you tell your teenaged children to “drive safely,” consider why they might drive unsafely to start with, and understand that it’s not just a matter of inexperience; rather, it’s a matter of aesthetics. Sympathize:  Try to work traffic safety into the framework of the drama in which they believe they are acting.  Make traffic safety a thing of beauty.  If they perceive traffic safety as beautiful, they will accept it in principle; if they accept it in principle, they will value it; if they value it, they will follow the rules; and, if they follow the rules, they will stay safe.

Our Traffic Safety Community – At Home in Safety City

Safety City Entrance

These words will reach few ears. —But you hear them, because you and I share in community life.

Communities gather about ideas. Before we ever met, something about traffic safety attracted us. Individually, we valued the idea. Then, our values inspired us: we resolved to interact. The idea brought us together. Now, it impels us toward richer interactions, for which reason we say our community, the Vision Zero community, lives.

Community life—fragile—is perpetuated, but with difficulty. Surviving requires sustaining the idea that brought us together. Like a neglected egg, that idea’s vital goop could easily dry up, leaving only a hollow shell.  Hollow ideas inspire no one. And, about hollow ideas, one never finds community life thriving.

Of course, to abandon traffic safety, forsake our community—unthinkable!  Too many lives are at stake.  Traffic safety is too valuable.  As a hen tends her egg, therefore, to preserve the idea’s substance is our duty.  We must ensure that traffic safety can be valued—that, for a long while yet, people will consider it, advocate it, glorify it. Only if the idea is sustained will the Vision Zero community live on.

If we fulfill our duty, the phrase “traffic safety” will mean more than the words that constitute it. The idea will produce real effects, real changes in people’s lives. That is our goal—but, are we doing it right?  “Don’t drink and drive,” “buckle your safety belt”—do these familiar maxims sustain the idea? Was any of them the something that initially attracted you?  

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that traffic safety, as it sits before us in its nest of twigs and string, needs something more—elaborate.  The problem, precisely, concerns the idea’s capacity to penetrate into people’s everyday thoughts and feelings, to connect discrete experiences that, when connected, make the logic of safe driving intuitive. If “don’t drink and drive” and “buckle your safety belt” scarcely prick the surface, can we yet sharpen them?

At the North Carolina State Fair, from October 12th to the 22nd, one can find an exhibit designed with just that intent: Safety City.

Safety City is, foremost, about community. Like a city, Safety City incorporates different communities. Functioning as a sort of traffic safety hub, it facilitates new interactions. NC Vision Zero, MADD, Safe Kids, BikeSafe, BeRailSafe, Watch for Me, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, and various law enforcement organizations all unite there, not to bore people with dry, moralizing speeches, but to demonstrate, tangibly, the meaning of traffic safety.

Put a boy in the Seat belt Convincer—he learns the meaning of prudence; give him a pair of alcohol impairment simulation goggles—he learns the meaning of temperance; show him the inside of a B.A.T. mobile—he learns the meaning of justice; call him to sign the Vision Zero pledge—he learns the meaning of fortitude.  At Safety City, a boy can learn all these virtues good citizens display and—what’s most important for our goal—their relation to traffic safety.

As he grows and, eventually, learns to drive, he will connect new experiences with the ones he had at Safety City. Making those connections, he will naturally display the virtues he learned as a boy. Then, as he continues to grow, the idea will incubate in his mind. He will begin to consider it, advocate it, glorify it as we do—and, on that day, our goal will have been achieved.  The Vision Zero community’s continuance will have been secured.

Sustain the idea!  Come to Safety City!

 

Passenger Ethics: Sit By Not Idly

If you employ a chauffeur, then you’ve fairly bought the privilege to criticize his performance as harshly as you please. But, the rest of us ride gratis, so we bite our tongues. Occasionally, we witness our friends, family members, co-workers, and classmates behaving irresponsibly behind the wheel. We feel with them; no one appreciates a back-seat driver. They aren’t our chauffeurs, and we can’t very well treat them like servants, can we? To criticize an equal’s every little fault would be—indecent.

And, anyway, their errors are mostly forgivable. They pass on the right, they merge across a solid white line, they devote both hands to fiddling with their cellphones while “steering” with their knees…No, wait! Stop! That’s super-dangerous! Even riding with friends, family, members, co-workers, and classmates, situations like the latter do arise that positively demand criticism. Where is the line? It’s probably closer to everyday life than most would suppose.

Plenty of facts and statistics support passengers intervening to dissuade drivers from behaving irresponsibly behind the wheel. For example, “distracted driving” caused 3,459 deaths in 2015. Of all those who died in automobile crashes that same year, 48% were not wearing their seat belts. The truth is plain enough: If we would speak up, we’d have no lack of things to say.

None of this evidence is really relevant to the question, though, is it? We all know how dangerous distracted driving is. We all know we should wear our seat belts. We all know we should obey the rules of the road. Like smoking in the presence of a baby, the question is really one of the limits of propriety: How serious an offense should one permit before protesting? How much smoke is it worth exposing a baby to before enough is enough, and any decent person would break that silence? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers some good guidelines for passengers in a variety of situations and—what’s most helpful—relationships to the driver. This graphic also suggests a few polite ways passengers can encourage safer driving, as does this one aimed specifically at teenagers.

The bottom line is this, though: the limits of propriety exist not to hinder and confuse but to assist living-together. If you know something makes living-together more difficult, like behaving irresponsibly behind the wheel, is it not right and proper to speak up? Even as passengers, we have that power—and no rational system of ethics denies the exercise of power to those who would use it justly. On the contrary, all of the best ones insist on it.


NC Vision Zero aims to empower North Carolina’s passengers. You can assist in their mission—and win an enviable prize to boot—by participating in the Empowered Passenger Video Contest.  For more information, look up ncvisionzero.org/empoweredpassenger

Empowered Passenger Contest Poster
Contest Poster

The Empowered Passenger Video Contest

Prompt
When someone else’s driving makes you feel unsafe, you have the responsibility to speak out. Speaking out empowers—we call them who speak out empowered passengers! How do you speak out when someone else’s driving makes you feel unsafe?

Shoot a short video. Tell others a story of passenger-empowerment. History or fiction. Be creative. Entertain, but be sure to instruct as well.

Submission
Submit your video electronically by either of the following methods:

  1. Upload your video to Youtube.
  2. Post a link to your video on Instagram or Twitter along with the hashtag #EmpoweredPassenger.

OR

  1. Upload your video to Youtube.
  2. On the contest gallery page, enter the Youtube URL in the form.
  3. Complete the form and click “Submit.”

Deadline
11:59 PM on 19 August 2017.  

Winning
As determined by a group of judges, the cleverest, most creative video will win its maker two AllSport Passes to the U.S. National Whitewater Center.  A member of NC Vision Zero team will email the winner once judging is complete to obtain a mailing address.  

Restrictions
Please do not behave unsafely while filming. Use your creativity to depict dangerous situations without you or anyone else actually experiencing one. For example:

  • Do not film while behind the wheel, even if the vehicle is stopped.
  • Do not film others without their consent.
  • Do not break any laws, ordinances, regulations, etc.

Also, Keep it G-rated.  

Only current residents of North Carolina may participate.

Violating any of these restrictions will disqualify you, so watch out!

Intellectual Property Rights
You retain ownership of your work.  By submitting, you implicitly grant ITRE the right to use and distribute your work for any purpose related to the NC Vision Zero initiative, including on its website and social media accounts.

Go to the Submission Form →

 


Many civic institutions collaborate in pursuit of NC Vision Zero’s goal. They are all dedicated to eliminating roadway fatalities in North Carolina—but real, positive change requires conscientious citizens like you. Keep up the effort! Check out our website at ncvisionzero.org for more information and resources you can use to help make our roads safer.

Secure Your Load

Secure your load logo
 

A motorist in Charlotte stopped on the highway to avoid hitting carpet padding that had fallen from another vehicle. The stopped car was struck from behind, causing the vehicle to hit the concrete barrier and catch on fire. Four passengers were injured and the driver was killed.

In Nash County, a motorist swerved to avoid a wooden pallet in the roadway, ran off the road, and overcorrected. The vehicle overturned several times and the crash killed the driver.

 

Click here for a brochure of NCDOT’s recommendations.

 

On the road, any debris or flying objects can pose a danger to motorists. Between 2012 and 2016, there have been 2,595 crashes from unsecured loads – resulting in 705 injuries and 14 fatalities in our state. To raise awareness about this issue and prevent crashes resulting from loose items, Governor Roy Cooper has declared June 6 “Secure Your Load Day” for North Carolina. This is an effort to make sure all vehicles are properly loaded and our roads are clean of dangerous debris.

Data for unsecured load crashes
 

Secure Your Load

  1. Make sure everything in your vehicle is tied down. Use straps, twine, bungee cords, netting or rope. Be sure to tie larger items directly to your vehicle.
  2. Keep your items covered with tarps, nets or covers to keep smaller items from flying out.
  3. Don’t overload your vehicle. Your vehicle’s load shouldn’t go above the level of your truck or trailer and all items should be covered to keep them stable.

 

North Carolina law requires that all materials being transported in a motor vehicle are securely tied down. Failure to properly secure items can result in a $2,000 fine and a point on your driver’s license.

If you are carrying loose items, take the time to properly secure your load.

 

Mattress falls off truck, secure your load

World Day of Remembrance

 

world day of remembrance

 

They could have been here—the 1,442 human beings killed last year on North Carolina roads. On the World Day of Remembrance, a pair of shoes, still, empty, stood for each one. To honor them, and to expose the dire cost of unsafe driving, NC Vision Zero set out those shoes in front of the State Capitol in Raleigh on November 19, 2017.

 

world day of remembrance
NC Vision Zero’s Second Annual World Day of Remembrance Exhibit, November 19, 2017.

 

For, each one of those 1,442 human beings was loved–and deserved better. Some passers-by offered a paper flower, remembering someone they loved in particular. They placed a flower on a pair of shoes, as if to suggest some good may yet come of this, if only the people were more aware of this serious public health issue.

 

world day of remembrance
How many pairs of shoes will stand in front of the State Capitol next year?

 

See more images from past exhibits here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/141696312@N06/albums/72157663096146798

Help make people aware of this serious public health issue by donating old shoes for future exhibits.

You can find shoe-donation boxes at these locations:

  • Oak City Cycling Project (212 E Franklin St., Raleigh, NC)
  • NC State University campus
    • Caldwell Hall
    • Research IV, 3rd floor kitchen
    • College of Textiles, room 3250

If your organization would like to partner with NC Vision Zero and host a shoe donation box, please contact us at ncvisionzero@ncsu.edu.

 

 

What will happen with the shoes after the World Day of Remembrance exhibit?

The shoes will be used for many years, travel all over North Carolina, and appear at various traffic safety events. For example, we will use a portion of them for our upcoming Visionaries teen driver program–to represent the number of teen driver fatalities.

If there is ever a day when we decide to stop using the shoes, we will donate the shoes that are still wearable.

For more information, contact ncvisionzero@ncsu.edu.

 

 

eliminate roadway death, nc vision zero press release

Governor McCrory Launches New Initiative to Eliminate Deaths on North Carolina Roadways

Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson announced a new initiative championed by Governor Pat McCrory to eliminate roadway deaths in NC. NC Vision Zero seeks to bring together multiple agencies and stakeholders to engineer safer roads, educate all road users, and enforce life-saving traffic laws. Read more about the goals of this initiative from the NCDOT‘s press release.