Dennis Bickmeier: “Youngsters are getting the message.”
I think one of the great things about the focus that has been put on distracted driving, and texting in particular, is that the message is getting to the young people out there. I know this because the drive to steer clear of texting while driving has resonated with my three young kids. Perhaps it came from television ads, radio PSAs, or within the industry that I work in – NASCAR – where our partner, Sprint, has placed a major emphasis in bringing awareness to this issue. Wherever they picked up on it, I’m glad. My seven-year-old daughter called me out recently at a traffic light when I picked up my phone to respond to a text. I heard, “Dad, you aren’t allowed to do that.” We live and work in such a “right now” society. When that phone beeps, I want to grab it. At least I have her voice in my head to remind me to wait or find a place to stop and respond. For some of us, we spend so much time in the car that it has become our eating establishment (thanks to whomever invented drive-thrus), our karaoke stage (I sound much better singing in my car than I do in the shower), and our meeting place (haven’t you ever done a conference call while driving?) to name a few. When we get behind the wheel, we take so much for granted without pausing to think how many things can go wrong. A trip to the office from home can seem automatic because we do it so often, but one lapse in concentration could prove to be a costly mistake. I equate that to our NASCAR drivers and what they do on the race track. Concentration.Vision. Anticipation. Coordination. Patience. You know that’s not just for the pros, right? We all need those five tools every time we get behind the wheel. A little extra care and caution can go a long way in preventing a mishap, and it’s not just on the roads. I’ve become increasingly more frustrated with parking lot safety, or what I perceive as a lack of care on behalf of drivers and pedestrians in parking lots. I see so many people, when they finally get parked, are walking through the lot with their eyes on their phones. I see drivers who think, because they are going slow in a parking lot, it’s okay to do three other things while driving. It’s not. My level of alertness on this matter is in trying to get three kids safely from the car through the lot to our destination and back again. Sometimes it’s like a game of “Frogger.” I’ll go back to where I started – messaging is key. Not just this month because it’s “Distracted Driving Awareness Month”, but consistent and relentless messaging about our responsibilities in operating a vehicle. If we can continue to drive that message, even to young ears far from securing a driver’s license, it will be safer on our roadways and parking lots.