We don’t say thank you enough. Recent research suggests that we thank people more than 2000 times a year but we don’t mean it about half the time. That’s sad because there is no doubt in my mind that thanking people brings joy, a feeling of self-worth and well- deserved recognition. I also feel that highway safety advocates are vastly under-appreciated especially by the public at large. They may get peer recognition but rarely if ever, do you see them honored at the Kennedy Center, White House or other venues honoring outstanding individuals (present company excluded). This despite the fact that they save lives day in and day out and usually for a nominal fee, or sometimes no fee and extraordinary work.
So, I would like to take this opportunity to honor a few fantastic individuals with our 3D Badge of Courage Awards, instead of the one we normally do.
The first person I want to acknowledge is Jeff Larason who is now with the Massachusetts Department of Highway Safety. I want to thank Jeff not just for his long career in highway safety but for his genius behind the Drop the “A” Campaign which he launched with We Save Lives several years ago. Up until his move to the Department he was the spearhead of the campaign that led to a whole new awareness of the reasons why we should NEVER use the word “accident” to describe a crash, wreck or collision. His impetus along with the help of many coalition members led to AP Stylebook changing their policy about the “a" word.
Another unsung hero is Melinda Lyman. Melinda didn’t start a national movement or change a law but every month she talks to those students who will soon be getting their driver’s license in a small community in Virginia. She shares the story of her teenage daughter’s death at the hands of a reckless driver and advises them on how they can improve their odds of a safe driving career.
Danielle Banciforte is another advocate who has worked tirelessly for years on teen driver safety in Florida. She is soon retiring as the Florida Statewide Director of SADD and the leader of the Florida Teen Safe Driving Coalition. She put together one of the best outreach programs I have ever seen. She is involved in numerous coalition building and is the first person that schools come to when they need a speaker. She is always willing to share the spotlight and encourages other groups to add their materials to the mix. She is just a good and caring person.
Connie Russell is a survivor of a drunk driving tragedy who launched her activism after the death of her son Matt to a drunk driver. She is an outspoken proponent of why people should not drive impaired and speaks to numerous audiences where she lives in Florida. She is the first one the media calls when drunk driving comes across their radar. She is always willing to go the extra mile when it comes to educating people about the dangers of impaired driving.
Larissa Redmond suffered a tragedy when her fiancé was killed in Tennessee by two distracted drivers. She turned her tragedy into Triumph when she launched C.L.I.F. Collegiate Life Investment Foundation that educates anyone and everyone in her home state about the dangers of distracted driving.
There are many, many more outstanding highway safety champions that we will be acknowledging throughout 2018. But I wanted to start now because I wanted to say THANK YOU on behalf of We Save Lives. We appreciate all you do and thanks to your courage and determination to speak out against injustice and bad driving choices, attitudes change and lives are saved. Because We Care . . .