“The reason we kicked off #DRIVINGITHOME with our Prince George’s County students is because we know that they are the most at risk on our roads.
The challenges we’ve experienced, and the number of accidents we’ve seen, have often been with 16- and 17-year olds.
Plus, if we can impact and empower our youth early it will translate into a safer future for us all.
Our safe driving cultural shift absolutely starts with them.”
There is the recognition that to create a cultural change, we must involve our youth, as they have historically been the cultural change agents. Of course, education and messaging are key to bringing consciousness to tragic crashes as a result of being overtired, distracted, speeding, driving while impaired, not wearing a seatbelt, texting, and being aggressive. This ingrained awareness is a crucial component of our young people defaulting to more cautious behavior whereby avoiding the consequences of carelessness and recklessness.
Consider the “Stop Smoking,” “Water Conservation,” movements of the 1970s and 1980s and more recently “Gun Control” campaigns, like “March for Our Lives” organized by Parkland High School shooting victims targeted our impressionable youth who became the passionate enforcers with their parents, loved ones and each other.
Similarly, #DRIVINGITHOME speaks to the youth using their common viral language of hash tags which relays basic safety “must do’s.” The focus is to change the culture by having drivers default to following the “must do’s,” as opposed to temporarily changing behavior that may lead someone to slow down and drive less aggressively when they are near speed cameras or being monitored by law enforcement, only to speed up and drive recklessly when they are out of range.
Assemblies are designed to reach student drivers with visuals and messaging that promotes awareness about safe driving practices at this crucial stage of their lives.
The #DRIVINGITHOME campaign officially kicked off earlier this year in February 2019 at all District 8 high schools: Friendly HS, Potomac HS, Crossland HS, and Oxon Hill HS. The campaign has garnered widespread attention and interest from County wide high school principals with an assembly held outside the District at DuVal HS.
Prince George's County Fire/EMS Chief Benjamin Barksdale and Major Nicke Smith of have both been featured speakers at each assembly. In May 2019, a joint effort kicked off with Council Member Brandon T. Todd who is an avid advocate for the #DrivingItHome initiative and who facilitated an assembly at The Washington Latin Public Charter School.
The initiative was launched in high schools because new drivers are impressionable and therefore receptive to learning. We envision #DRIVINGITHOME as being a part of their consciousness and expanding their awareness of the long-lasting impacts and irreversible devastation that can result from making bad decisions behind the wheel so it’s critical to begin shaping this mindset before bad habits are formed. Similarly, we are working with our experienced drivers with an urgent push to re-educate and re-sensitize those who are making poor, and too often, life altering decisions on our roadways.
The #DRIVINGITHOME campaign has been incredibly impactful everywhere it has been presented; schools, houses of praise, community meetings, regional organizations, national organizations, radio and television news stories.
Students have pledged to drive safely, and if riding as a passenger in a vehicle, not to distract the driver. All 32 of the high schools in Prince George’s County have 4’ x 8’ billboards at campus entrances for students and the communities to see. As a result, our hashtag #DRIVINGITHOME is trending on social media.
Notably, the #DRIVINGITHOME initiative was introduced before Prince George’s County’s Vision Zero Plan that launched in July 2019 and stands as a powerful initiative that supports the Vision Zero mission.