Photographer Helps Raise Awareness About Texting and Driving
Bruce Berg of Springfield, Oregon learned from his daughter that her school taught about the dangers of drinking and driving, but did not focus much on the dangers associated with texting while driving. Berg, who is a local professional photographer thought that maybe he was missing something, so he did some research online. What he found is that texting while driving is a very real and dangerous activity teens are engaging in, but that public awareness and educational programs have been slow to address the problem. Knowing that texting while driving affects adult and inexperienced drivers alike, Berg decided that he would jump start an initiative locally to bring awareness to the subject and hopefully save lives. Three years ago, Berg sat down with other local business owners who chipped in for up to $500 a month per billboard. That is about to change, as sponsors must cut costs and discontinue the campaign.
According to national statistics on distracted driving, every week in the US marks an average of 11 lives lost due to distracted driving, with 10% of those involving teens. The toll adds up to over 3100 people every year who were not paying attention as their car went down the road. Cars are heavy and fast moving projectiles bound to the laws of physics. Sudden impacts at speeds greater than 45 miles per hour prove to be fatal for passengers of motor vehicles, and collisions with pedestrians can cause serious damage at any speed. A car travels 20 yards per second when moving at 55 miles per hour, journeying the length of a football field in just 5 seconds. A distracted driver can easily ignore large swaths of highway, completely destroying anything in its path without an attempt at slowing down or diverting course. It goes to imply that an intoxicated driver stands a better chance of reacting to road hazards than someone immersed in a smartphone text conversation.
Berg thought about the subject and considered the implications of teaching students about drunk driving but not focusing on texting while driving. While DUI classes in school do a great service in promoting responsible drivers, there are far more teenage drivers with access to their own cell phone when compared to teenage drivers with access to alcohol. DUI classes come in handy for teens who do drink alcohol and also later on when the drivers will be of legal age but out of school, but it does little to address a more widespread problem of a society that is becoming more and more connected online with mobile devices. The national statistic on fatalities attributed to distracted driving troubled Berg. “That’s a horrendous statistic. I know how I’m tempted [to text and drive] and I see teens do it all the time.” For the safety of his daughter and the entire city of Springfield, Bruce Berg decided he would do something.
As a photographer, Bruce Berg captures senior portraits for schools across the school district. After finding some local business owners to help with funding, Bruce set out on his campaign to spread awareness and garner participation from his community to quell instances of distracted driving on their streets. Bruce signed up with billboards across town that featured block text such as “PLZ JOIN US. DON’T TXT + DRV!” The billboards were updated with photos of teens currently enrolled in school who signed a pledge to be responsible and refrain from texting while driving. Because the teens on the billboard were currently enrolled, it helps spread the message on a personal level with those who knew them and provided an incentive for possible local fame in exchange for bringing awareness for the subject. Unfortunately, it is not known how much longer the billboards will continue. Berg’s partners have opted to withdraw funding, leaving Berg to face the expenses on his own. “Even if I have to come up with [the funds] all myself, I’m committed to doing it,” Berg says.
Not surprisingly, almost all of the traffic fatalities due to distracted driving are the consequences of adults who are not paying attention to the road. Many adults have been away from schools for so long that they have not considered the dangers around simply responding to just one text message. Sadly, a mistake from behind the wheel cannot be reversed. No one wins in a distracted driving accident and those who live through the situation must live with the remorse for the rest of their lives. Parents need to understand this and pass the knowledge and wisdom on to their teens. A text message is not more important than paying attention to the road, and a passenger can easily read and respond to messages while keeping everyone on the road safe and focused.