National Passenger Safety Week urges passengers to speak up for their own and other’s safety

The National Road Safety Foundation says we lose too many people every year on our roads and highways and passengers account for about 24 percent of all traffic fatalities.

That’s 9,000 individuals a year who haven’t done anything and end up severely injured or dead.

On this National Passenger Safety Week and beyond, passengers should feel empowered to speak up.

“In West Virginia, the first half of last year — which are the latest figures we have, about 30 passengers were killed on your roads and highways throughout the state,” said David Reich. “Most of the time it’s just a needless tragedy.”

Reich says passengers can and should speak up if they’re in a car where the driver is acting irresponsibly. The driver may say ‘Mind your own business’ but the foundation encourages passengers to speak up regardless. If you get pushback, he says try to explain why you’re saying something.

“The way you’re driving is making me nervous. I don’t want to get hurt; I care about you — I don’t want you to get hurt or worse,” he said you could say to them. “So hey, please take it easy… slow down, we’ll get there. If we get there a minute later, it doesn’t matter. At least we’ll get there.”

Teen drivers are even more at risk. Reich says 56 percent of teen deaths on our roads and highways were passengers in cars that were driven by another teen.

“So it’s important for teens to speak up if they feel that they are at risk. Speaking up can make a difference,” Reich said. “And if somebody calls you a backseat driver — so be it. At least you’ll still be around to be called that.”

If the driver is tailgating, jumping from lane to lane or reaching for their cell phone to respond to a call or text, Reich says the passenger can volunteer to take the call or read the text to them.

“We talk about designated drivers if somebody’s been drinking; be a designated texter — if that’ll make things safer,” he said. “There are ways to let the driver keep his or her focus on the task at hand, which is driving and driving safely.”

Reich says for the National Passenger Safety Campaign, the National Road Safety Foundation partnered with We Save Lives. According to founder Candace Lightner, who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving — “One courageous voice can change one deadly choice.”

If passengers intervene, Reich says and even half of the drivers respond by slowing down or being responsible, there’ll be half as many crashes.

“Half as many injuries, half as many deaths. So this is a long-term process, but we’re trying to change attitudes and make it acceptable to speak up if you’re in a car that’s being driven dangerously,” he said it could save a life or it could save a few lives.”

To learn more, visit and Reich encourages you to sign the Courage to Intervene Promise.


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