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Nathaniel Fick
Nathaniel Fick
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Taking Distracted Driving Seriously: It’s Not About the Lawsuit

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Lawyers’ Children.

That’s how Jim Kenzie, a regular contributor to the Toronto Star Wheels, deplorably referenced the orange road cones set up along the course of Ford Motor Company’s  recent distracted driving program – Driving Skills for Life.

The idea, of course, was not to hit the cones, and to show teenagers the risks of drinking – or texting – and driving. It’s not the driving program that’s a problem. The importance of paying attention to the road is highly significant. We need more programs that show people how serious the issue really is.

It’s the way the program went about presenting the issue. “Lawyers’ Children.” Why in the world would you use that term? It sounds like a slight, and it’s a slight that’s hard to ignore. Understanding how it was meant could be helpful.

Was it intended to say that the children of lawyers are less valuable than other children? Maybe, but probably not.

Was it designed to indicate that screwing up behind the wheel could get you sued? That’s a bit more likely.

The issue with that is it’s true. Making a big mistake behind the wheel, especially as a result of drinking or texting and driving, could get you sued. The distracted driving program was meant as a strong reminder of the damage that could be done, and the resulting lawsuits that would likely be seen if you hit or killed someone while distracted behind the wheel.

Targeting teenagers when they have just started driving, and showing them the truth of the risks – letting them experience a simulated version of those risks for themselves – is a great way to reduce the chances that they will make mistakes behind the wheel.

So, why all the fuss about the phrase “Lawyers’ Children?”

Because the idea of getting sued shouldn’t be what stops you from driving distracted.

When the idea of being sued for making a mistake behind the wheel is more important than the idea that you could fatally harm another human being, something is seriously wrong with the world. When people think about getting behind the wheel drunk, or they decide they want to text while driving, getting sued ought to be the least of their concerns.

They should be thinking about how they can avoid hurting someone else.

But that’s not what we’re teaching them.

Distracted driving programs are important, but they should also be taught for the right reasons, with the right values in mind. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when the focus is on not hitting “Lawyers’ Children” so you can avoid a lawsuit.

No one wants to be sued, of course, and it can financially wreck a life. But how much emotional devastation would that life be subject to, if its actions ended someone else’s life over carelessness?

It may seem all in good fun to refer to those orange road cones as Lawyers’ Children, but it simply doesn’t send the right message.

Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive. Don’t do anything behind the wheel except drive. Don’t get distracted. Your life, and the lives of others, may depend on you paying attention behind the wheel.

Don’t do those things, because you could hurt or kill someone else. The resulting lawsuit would be the least of your problems – and distracted driving courses should remember that.