From 2015 to 2019 in Massachusetts, 12% of fatal crashes involved distracted driving. Massachusetts law prohibits operators of motor vehicles from using any electronic device, including cellphones, unless the device is in hands-free mode. Despite enactment of this “hands-free” law on February 23, 2020, the Registry of Motor Vehicles reported that 53,638 motor vehicle citations were issued from February 2020 through June 2021.
Through a grant from GHSA and General Motors, the Massachusetts Highway Safety Division (Division) worked with Safe Roads Alliance (SRA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives by providing educational services to all drivers, to expand their “Kids Speaking Up for Road Safety” program. The project’s goal is to create a generation of safer drivers by educating children about distracted driving well before they become drivers themselves.
Through the partnership, the Division and SRA provided distracted driving education in elementary school classrooms across the state. Joining them in this effort were the Massachusetts Traffic Safety Coalition, the State Department of Public Health, the Safe Routes to School Director and local injury prevention specialists. Additionally, SRA partnered with the In Control Family Foundation (ICFF), a New England nonprofit that offers state-certified crash prevention training focused on drivers of all ages, to bring their “Crash Prevention” program to two high schools.
Kids Speaking Up for Road Safety Presentations
SRA provided “Kids Speaking Up for Road Safety” teacher kits which included a lesson plan, video presentations, a letter to parents/guardians explaining the lesson content, pre- and post-surveys to measure knowledge gains, a safety driving pledge for students and parents/guardians, and a printable reference guide for students. The students were also provided toy meerkats to remind them about what they learned from Sam, the program mascot.
Students were taught to recognize when a driver is distracted and how to respectfully use “I” statements to speak up and ask the driver to put their phone down. The participating schools and clubs were in the cities of Boston, Medford, Methuen, Sommerville and Worchester, along with the towns of Longmeadow and Sudbury. The presentations reached 2,748 students.
Crash Prevention Program
ICFF delivered their ride-along crash prevention demonstration to Medford (April 2023) and Methuen (March 2023) High Schools. The hands-on training included proper hand and seat placement, emergency braking skills (ABS vs non-ABS), advanced steering, back-up skills and emergency avoidance maneuvers. Students also participated in a distracted driving simulation. A total of 559 students took part in the demonstration.
Ongoing Project Impact
The Division recommends State Highway Safety Offices partner with local nonprofits and safety personnel to support and expand traffic safety programs. After completing their grant activities, the Division began developing a menu of distracted driving resources to share with schools statewide to help them plan future events. The menu will include recommendations for organizations and contact information, including SRA’s “Kids Speaking Up for Road Safety” program. The Division also plans to continue to work with SRA to implement the program in classrooms across the state to help build a generation of safer drivers.