When you hear the acronym DD, you probably think of a designated driver, or maybe you think of drunk driving, but those two letters have another meaning in today’s fast paced and uber-communicative culture.
Distracted Driving is an ongoing problem, the cause of 45,740 car crashes in 2015 in Florida alone, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and it’s about more than just texting: Chiming in on social media, taking car selfies, video chatting or finding that perfect song somewhere in your itunes playlist all mean you’re distracted, and that’s when accidents happen.
In an effort to reinforce the importance of paying attention to the road and your surroundings while driving, a group of like-minded organizations and one driven AT&T employee recently came together to try to make a change.
Thanks to two challenges AT&T gives to its employees every year, the Director of AT&T Wireline Regional Infrastructure, Regina Ennis, dedicated herself to raising awareness and educating her community about distracted driving for the “Do One Thing” Challenge.
She continued her mission during the follow up challenge called “It Can Wait, 16 in 16” challenge in which employees were encouraged to get friends and family to sign the “AT&T It Can Wait” pledge
, which reminds people that “distracted driving is never okay.”
AT&T Spokesperson Karen McAllister says that they have had over 14 million people take the “It Can Wait” Pledge since they started in in 2010.
“We find that there is power in a pledge. Once people take that pledge they are committed to not driving distracted,” she says.
Ennis got almost 400 people to take the pledge in 2016, and for her efforts she won $2,500 to give to an organization that already had a distracted driving program in place.
Ennis lived in Orlando for many years before moving to her current home in White Plains, NY, so she was aware of the Bradenton-based Mark Wandall Foundation
an organization founded in by Wandall’s widow, Melissa, after he was killed by a red light runner only a couple of weeks before their child was born. The Foundation works to help grieving children who have lost family members or guardians.
While the Mark Wandall Foundation doesn’t offer a distracted driving class, Founder Melissa Wandall knew who did.
In mid-January, Ennis, along with Wandall, and Ed Narain, regional director at AT&T, presented the $2,500 winnings to Johns Hopkins All Childrens Hospital in St. Petersburg, where they lead the Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS Coalition
.The money will go toward funding a class for teens and new parents about the dangers of distracted driving, and ways to avoid becoming another statistic because of it.
For more information about the class, call the Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS c/o Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital at 727-767-8581 or 800-756-7233.