By: Ava Chen
Speeding on our roadways, distracted driving, driving while impaired are all prevalent problems in our society. During the last year, this problem has only gotten worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2020, people drove less due to the pandemic, but an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This marks a 7.2% increase in fatalities when compared to 2019. Some of the behaviors that drove this increase include speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving, and failure to wear a seatbelt.
As Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said, “Texting and driving is dangerous with tragic outcomes. Our youth are the future and their safety is a priority for us in Law Enforcement. Let’s all do our part to keep them safe by reminding them that driving requires their complete attention at all times.”
In order to help reduce the number of fatalities on the road, the Shreya Dixit Foundation External Project Committee collaborated with the Dakota County Toward Zero Deaths Coalition to create a social media challenge that promotes safe driving practices. After weeks of research, brainstorming, and revision, the External Project Dakota County Committee launched the Traffic Safety Selfie Challenge. In less than a week, the challenge reached over 5,000 people and featured participants in over 7 states, including Florida, Massachusetts, and California.
The challenge prompts teenagers and young adults to take a “Traffic Safety Selfie Challenge” by using the mirrors in a car while parked (before starting the engine) and list things they will do to drive safer.
“The idea behind the challenge is that people should be taking pictures before they drive, not when they drive. It also serves as an opportunity for people to reflect on their current driving practices,” said Ava Chen, the External Project Lead of the committee.
Aside from taking a photo, the participant also challenges 3-5 others to participate by using the hashtags #trafficsafetyselfie and #drivingtowardszerodeaths, tag @shreyadixitfoundation and @mntzddakotacounty, and post their challenge submission on their Instagram account via Instagram Stories. Others have also participated in the challenge on TikTok by showing themselves taking their Traffic Safety Selfie and including the final pictures at the end. Many participants have chosen to include a voiceover where they share the ways they will drive safe. Others have chosen to include captions and music instead, “Regardless of the way people do the challenge, it leaves an impact on those that see it,” reiterates Kylie Karsky, an External Project intern.
Brock Daylor, an Eden Prairie native currently living in Massachusetts attending Boston College, participated in the challenge via Instagram Stories. When asked why he participated in the challenge, Daylor said, “I participated because I thought it was a good cause that is something people tend to neglect. Distracted driving is an issue that has been very visible for me during my life, but especially high school. Many people have the mentality that they are good enough at driving to do it distracted. This mindset puts themselves and others in danger. I think educating people about the risks and potential consequences of distracted driving can act as a deterrent for those who currently drive unsafe. With the knowledge in the back of their minds people will be more hesitant to pick up their phone or engage in any other distracting behavior.”
Sarah Brown, a Minnesota native currently living in Florida, did the challenge on TikTok. She said, “I decided to do the challenge because I know from personal experience how tempting it is to drive distracted. A lot of people don’t always have safe driving habits and it’s important to show people how important they are. I, along with just about everyone else I know, sometimes will look at my phone really quick or take my eyes off the road to adjust something. But even those few seconds can be enough to cause a crash.”
Someone can participate in the Traffic Safety Selfie Challenge today and go to @shreyadixitfoundation and @mntzddakotacounty on Instagram for more information. Sources: https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/2020-fatality-data-show-increasedtrafficfatalities-during-pandemic