New ideas to help fight distracted and drunk driving
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06-22-16 Category: Advocacy, Media, Substance Abuse

fight distracted and drunk driving

Chaplain Archie, a longtime prison chaplain, used to start his messages to the inmates this way:

“An accident is when you trip on stairs or when you stain your shirt drinking coffee. A mistake is putting your full name on the ‘first name’ portion of a form. You didn’t accidentally do drugs or mistakenly drive drunk. The theft, drug possession or assault, that was a bad decision. Distinguishing a bad decision from everything else is the beginning of you taking authority over how you live out the rest of your sentence.”

Highway safety advocates We Save Lives (WSL) assuredly agree. The group has an entire drunk driving campaign dedicated to dropping “the A word” (accident) as it relates to drunk, drugged or distracted driving. The WSL coalition is driven by Mothers Against Drunk Driving founder Candace Lightner and now sponsors a digitally interactive campaign called “Reflections From Inside.”

The Reflections campaign is one of several tools that reach beyond billboard warnings and blanketed guilt trips to discourage driving under an influence. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other safety advocacy groups are taking new approaches to combat unsafe driving behaviors.

Shining a light on distracted driving

While not as well-publicized, authorities agree that driving while distracted is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

“Why are we making a distinction between a substance you consume and one that consumes you?” asks Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council and former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board. And yet it seems that even drivers who know not to drive drunk will still drive distracted.

“There’s a huge discrepancy between attitude and behavior,” explained Professor David Greenfield, M.D., from University of Connecticut’s Medical School. He conducted a study on why people continue to text and drive, knowing it’s dangerous. “There’s that schism between what we believe and then what we do.”

Finding creative new solutions

Mark Rosekind is chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He said a surge in roadside fatalities and the continued climb of drivers texting, taking selfies and using Facebook and Snapchat means, for safety authorities, “Radical change requires radical ideas.”

  1. Textalyzer. This device is being heralded by New York legislators. The textalyzer would scan police-obtained cell phones for recent text and email activity; purportedly it does not violate the privacy of the content of any such messages. Persistent privacy concerns have slowed the bills movement.
  1. Text-disabling smartphone apps. More apps are taking an assertive approach to texting drivers. AT&Ts It Can Wait campaign includes apps DriveMode and SafelyGo, which suppress text notifications and auto-reply a person is driving and can’t respond.
  1. Text stops. The city of New York partnered with the It Can Wait campaign to create more than 90 text stops along the thoroughfares announcing designated text stops for drivers.


  1. Pranking a repeat offender. A group of friends tried to teach a buddy – who’s had five DUI convictions – a sober lesson.

The repeat offender passed out drunk, as was his custom, but he awoke to a daunting scenario. While recording the intervention, the friends had a fake medical staff, hospital room and storyline to prank their buddy into believing he had just awoken from a 10-year coma after a drunk driving crash.

Tough love and hard facts

If you knew for sure your actions would save a loved one’s life, how far would you go to intervene? Or better yet, if you knew your vice of choice would end your life or an innocent person’s, what measures would you take to keep yourself from driving drunk, high or distracted by your smartphone?

The Sovereign Health Group is a hub of professionals all focused on treating mental health issues, which may manifest as addictions, eating and mental disorders. We address the individual behind dependency and mental distress. Call our 24/7 helpline for more information.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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