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Mikey Did NOT Do It Alone!!

Those readers who grew up in the seventies might remember watching a very ubiquitous cereal commercial on TV. It showed a cute toddler called Mikey whose elder siblings blamed him for mistakes that were not his. They also made him eat the cereal they did not want to try. They always pushed food toward Mikey by saying: ‘Give it to Mikey, he will eat it’, absolving themselves of their responsibility.

Something similar is happening today. The only difference is that characters have changed. I am referring to oft repeated charge against teens by older drivers blaming teens for distracted driving and other irresponsible driving behaviors. Teens are today’s version of Mikey.

I do not subscribe to that view.

Adults are as much or more to blame for poor driving practices like distracted driving. The famous sayings: like father like son or a fruit does not fall far from the tree are good examples. We adults are role models for our young ones. What we see in them is actually our own reflection.

Isn’t it common to notice lot of drivers on the road engrossed in phone conversations, texting, Facebooking, Snapchatting etc. Not all of those are teens. Good number of them are professionals. Reminders might remember an acronym for that behavior in one of my previous columns this year. I called it Driving under the Influence of Electronic Device and turned it into the acronym DIED, not a pleasant word. But gets the message across.

Let us look at some numbers.

Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety determined that 1 in 4 vehicle crashes and 1 in 5 traffic deaths in Minnesota involve distracted driving.

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “More than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2016 during the 100 Deadliest Days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This was a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data reported 10 % rise in teen fatalities on the road from last year, distracted driving being one of the contributors. It would have been nice to also provide the non-teen number.

Although I am being somewhat protective of teens, I don’t want to make them so comfortable that they wash their hands by blaming it on their elders for being a poor role model for them. In my opinion, it’s a shared responsibility. Parents need to be monitoring their teen’s driving behavior and checking and correcting them by demonstrating personal discipline in their own driving.

It is a collective responsibility. Driver discipline is paramount for controlling all types of distractions, not just cell phone related ones. To encourage such behavior, Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation annually hosts Raksha Vigil and 5K Run/Walk for the community to raise awareness with real life stories. This is the 11th year of Raksha event which will take place on August 11 in Eden Prairie. High school and college Track Teams and Cross Country Running clubs are invited to participate. Please register at www.shreyadixit.org.

The event will showcase the work of teen run Distraction-free Driving Clubs from Eden Prairie and Benilde St. Margaret Schools that the Shreya Foundation established. We hope to establish similar clubs in high schools in Rochester and Mankato areas. The leaders of Eden Prairie and Benilde St. Margaret are currently putting together a guide book on how to establish a distraction-free driving club. The guide book will describe the challenges the two schools faced during start-up with advice on how to succeed.

Apparently, today’s Mickey is also a great problem solver, creating solutions for saving lives.

If you are interested in establishing a distraction-free driving club, please write to me at vijay@shreyadixit.org. I will get you connected. Also visit www.shreyadixt.org.

I wait to hear from you.

Remember 11th on the 11.

May we count on your attendance?

Vijay Dixit