Road Safety Advocates Take Remembrance Bike Ride To State House

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Emily Stein holds a photo of her late father, who was killed by a distracted driver. She told WBUR that her father's death has driven her to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)
Emily Stein holds a photo of her late father, who was killed by a distracted driver. She told WBUR that her father's death has driven her to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)

A bicycle ride of remembrance takes place Sunday afternoon in Boston. It's part of a World Remembrance Day honoring people whose lives have been changed or lost in traffic crashes.

The Boston event begins in Copley Square with a ride to the State House for a vigil, and it's a key moment for many safety advocates who say most crashes are preventable and are a direct result of driving behaviors and transportation policies.

Medford resident Emily Stein, who became an advocate in the effort to fight distracted driving after her father was killed by a distracted driver, joined WBUR's Weekend Edition Sunday to discuss the event and the issues. She is a part of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition, a group working to eliminate crash-related fatalities and severe injuries.

Interview Highlights:

On how she got involved in these road safety issues:

Emily Stein: "Unfortunately, everybody seems to have a story, and mine started when I was six months pregnant, and I got that phone call that everybody dreads. My dad was killed on his way home from work by a woman who was programming her GPS.

"I hadn't really heard of distracted driving — I knew that it wasn't safe to text, and that cellphones should not be used while you're driving — but I never knew how much of a problem it was and what the consequences could be."

On what can be done to combat distracted driving:

ES: "So many people don't seem to be educated on what distracted driving is. They say, 'yeah, yeah, yeah, texting is illegal, but I just check my phone every now and then.' They don't understand the addiction behind it. We are all addicted to our cellphones. We're addicted to being connected.

"So the education is a very important part of it to say we have to put those phones down when we drive. The other part is enforcement. And I know Massachusetts is in the process of the hands-free bill, we're trying to pass that this year for the third time. This is our third attempt. ... Right now, as the law stands, it is very difficult for officers to enforce the no-texting ban."

On Vision Zero, a program with a goal of zero crashes and fatalities on the streets:

ES: It's already been put in place in several cities. New York has had Vision Zero for several years. People know what it is, and they've seen the changes. They've seen the decrease in deaths. They've been able to lower the speed limit on city streets to 20 miles an hour and for a city as large as New York to be able to do that is radical. But they did it. It's possible. And Boston adopted this initiative in March ..."

On the 'Crash Not Accident' campaign:

ES: "... About 90 percent of the crashes on the road are preventable. And when something is preventable and predictable, it's not an accident. When someone chooses to have several drinks and get in their car and drive home, they're taking that risk that they will cause a crash. They could cause a fatality, either their own or somebody else on the road.

"When somebody chooses to look at their cellphone instead of the road, that is predictable that they could crash. And it's 100 percent preventable. Now, when someone is speeding, when someone is driving aggressively, all of these are preventable causes, and they are predictable for causing a crash. When something is preventable and predictable, it is not an accident.

"... So the whole idea of having a campaign #crashnotaccident ... if we keep hearing 'accident, accident, accident' so many times a day, we kind of shut off to that, and we think 'well, it's part of life, and what can you do about it?' But, if we hear 'crash,' it's something that we want to avoid, it's something that we want to take responsibility for and it's also something that we have to learn the cause: 'What caused that crash? Oh, wow, it was someone texting. Hey, I text. It was someone programming their GPS. I actually do that.' The hope is that it will change behavior and make people more responsible — take responsibility for their driving decisions. So it's all about the choices we make."

This article was originally published on November 15, 2015.

This segment aired on November 15, 2015.


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Sharon Brody News Anchor
Sharon Brody is the voice of WBUR's weekend mornings. On Saturdays and Sundays, she anchors the news for Weekend Edition and other popular programs.



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