The Courage to Intervene as Passengers
At some point, we’ve all had the experience of being passengers who were not comfortable with how we’re being driven. Maybe the drivers have had too much to drink, they’re going too fast, or they’re distracted. Perhaps we’ve seen friends or family head to the car, and you know they’re in no shape to drive, that they’re in danger of harming or killing themselves and others. Still, it’s hard to speak up, to know when and how to intervene. That takes courage and guts.
But silence doesn’t save lives.
Drunk, drugged, and distracted driving is on the rise. Did you know that in 2019, 62 percent of all traffic fatalities were passengers? Many were teenagers who hopped in the car with multiple people or when impaired friends were driving. Sometimes tragic stories emerge later: I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen. I didn’t know what could happen. If only I had said something when she took that call…
What can you do?
- Sign a pledge that you won’t ride with anyone impaired and you won’t let others do it either.
- Download the Courage to Intervene checklist of questions to ask your teen before they become a passenger. Monitoring who your child rides with could literally save their life.
- Watch this video for some suggestions on how to handle sensitive situations.
- Organize passenger empowerment campaigns in schools. Grade-school-age kids and high schoolers can be the strongest advocates for passenger safety in their peer groups.
- Share stories of yourself or other passengers who have intervened
As passengers, we can take away the keys from an impaired driver, volunteer to be a designated texter, help navigate, or gently point out if the driver is being erratic. We can offer to drive. Sometimes the most helpful thing is just to stop talking and not be distracting.
If a situation feels unsafe, don’t get in or stay in the car. Persuade friends to do the same. Make it clear that you care about the driver, yourself, and others, and don’t back down, no matter what. It helps others be brave too.
Every one of us can make a big difference as caring individuals. Although National Passenger Safety Week ended on January 30, every day should be a day when we as passengers and bystanders have the Courage to Intervene.
Author Mi Ae Lipe welcomes comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website: Driving in the Real World
Mi Ae Lipe