By AAA of Western and Central New York
National Passenger Safety Week runs from Jan. 22-28, 2023. This initiative focuses on the passenger, and not just the driver. The goal is to promote safe driving practices and prevent unsafe ones by empowering passengers to speak up when their lives are in danger due to a reckless driver.
Two organizations, We Save Lives and the National Road Safety Foundation, founded the idea last year and, so far, more than 60 other organizations have joined the coalition, with more to come. AAA is joining these traffic safety and advocacy groups nationwide that are helping passengers to speak up. The founders’ message is clear: Passengers can make a difference, because “one courageous voice can change one deadly choice.” AAA supports the effort to educate the public, and encourage passengers to speak up to prevent dangerous driving by stopping loved ones from driving drunk, drugged or distracted.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. roadway deaths have spiked over the past few years due to reckless, drugged, drunk and distracted drivers. A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report confirms this, as well. It found that unsafe driving behaviors, including speeding, red-light running, drowsy driving and driving impaired on cannabis or alcohol, rose from 2020 to 2021. The most alarming increase was among drivers admitting to getting behind the wheel after drinking enough that they felt they were over the legal limit – an increase of nearly 24%. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, this is a reversal in the steady declines in these dangerous driving behaviors in the three years from 2018 through 2020.
“Passengers can set the ground rules when it comes to their safety,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA Western and Central New York. “They have the power to keep drivers from using their mobile devices while driving. They should not get in the car with a driver who is impaired, and they have the power to discourage other bad driving choices such as speeding and driving drowsy.”
Roadway deaths did fall in the first nine months of 2022, with 65 fewer fatalities – or a 0.2% decrease – compared to 2021, according to new NHTSA statistics. The agency noted, however, that, while fatalities have gone down overall, cyclist and pedestrian deaths rose, by 8% and 2%, respectively, compared with the first half of 2021. Fatalities also increased 12% on rural interstates, and fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck went up 10%.
Here are some examples of how and why passengers should speak up and stay safe:
√ Passengers have the right to get to their destination safely.
√ Before getting into a car, passengers should evaluate if the driver is safe and responsible.
√ Passengers can help ensure that all occupants are wearing seat belts.
√ Passengers have the right to intervene if they don’t feel safe.
√ Child passengers can tell mom or dad to put the phone away and stay safe.
As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.