The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award
The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke
2010 Winner: Zero Fatalities
Zero Fatalities is a coalition of Utah highway safety partners working to prevent traffic injuries and fatalities whose groundbreaking Texting While Driving (TWD) video has fueled the distracted driving discussion on a national scale. With distracted driving fatalities on the rise – and a new Utah law with the nation’s toughest penalties for TWD – Zero Fatalities knew that public education was imperative, especially since few educational materials existed about this deadly behavior.
In the spring of 2009, Zero Fatalities heard about Reggie Shaw, a Utah man who had been charged with negligent homicide for the deaths of two men as a result of TWD as a teen. According to prosecuting attorneys, this was unprecedented; never before had someone been charged with negligent homicide because of TWD.
Zero Fatalities worked with Shaw to produce a 15-minute documentary educating drivers about the dangers of TWD. This video shows how one teen’s decision to text while driving affected so many lives. It includes interviews with the widows of the men who died and those involved in the crash, as well as footage of Shaw being admitted into the jail. One of the foremost experts on texting while driving, Dr. David Strayer, provides behavioral research on how texting impairs drivers. The video also covers the strict penalties for texting while driving under Utah’s new law. The Utah Department of Transportation provided $60,000 in funding for video production and organized a press conference.
After production, the next step was marketing. STAPLES® donated 1,000 DVDs for duplication and distribution. Every driver education instructor in Utah received a copy, and the video was promoted on Facebook, blogs, and other social networking websites. A special effort was made to get the video into high schools for presentations or school assemblies.
As the word spread, demand for the video grew. Within the first four months of its debut, the video had been downloaded more than 1.2 million times. High school administrators and driver education instructors asked for presentations in schools that were previously not involved in the program. Hundreds of companies, municipalities and community organizations have asked permission to share the video with their families, employees, staff and communities.
The tremendous impact of Zero Fatalities’ TWD video has not been limited to Utah. People from other states and even countries asked for copies to share with their friends, employees and constituents. The video has received national media exposure from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Today Show and NPR, Dr. Oz and the Oprah Winfrey Show. It also caught the attention of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who featured Shaw as a guest speaker at the first national summit on distracted driving. Oprah also included Shaw as a speaker and showed clips of the texting video when she launched her campaign against texting while driving.
The TWD video arrived just as public awareness of the dangers of TWD began to surface, and it provides a visceral, powerful message about how this widespread and seemingly simple activity can really have tragic, lasting consequences. It has helped fill the dearth of educational materials addressing texting while driving. Zero Fatalities team members have heard from dozens of people who say the video has convinced them to never text while driving.
By covering all aspects of the situation, the Zero Fatalities video provided Utah and the nation with a highly effective way to communicate about the inherent danger in TWD.