A young community member has taken it upon himself to use his rare position as a race car driver to promote the idea of ending distracted driving.
Parker Thompson, 17, is entering his second year of promoting the Drive to Stay Alive campaign, taking the program national this year. He has committed to speaking to peers across the province and country to help students and teachers recognize the growing danger that is distracted driving.
“It’s something that is really close to my heart and I want to put an end to it,” Thompson said while visiting Notre Dame High School last week.
“I wanted to find something to give back to not only Red Deer, but all of Alberta and eventually Canada. This seems to be a growing, emerging problem and I don’t see anybody else really tapping into it. There isn’t another campaign out there targeting distracted driving, especially in Alberta. This is something close to my heart – I know what crashes can do to the human body, and I’ve been in my fair share of accidents with racing. It’s the same with street cars – if you get into a crash, it’s always possible to be life threatening.”
Thompson said he started the campaign because his family friends had been affected in more ways than one by distracted driving accidents. He said as he began to look into the problem more it bothered him that no one was campaigning against the issue.
“I know how deadly distracted driving is and I started looking into the facts of how the problem is always rising and getting worse, and saw nobody was really doing anything about it. That’s kind of why I took on the initiative myself to end distracted driving,” he said.
He said he is happy to be working towards ending the issue and feels he is in a unique position in that kids can relate to him.
“I really feel it’s getting through to the kids. Being a peer to them, being a 17 year old in Grade 12 really helps because when I get up on the stage, their not thinking, oh another lecture presentation. We have some fun, and have a good time but also have to get through the facts of how dangerous distracted driving truly is.”
The Drive to Stay Alive campaign is using social media as a means to engage the youth especially, but also as a tool to spread awareness of the topic in communities that are visited on campaign stops.
“We use social media in every aspect of our day, and I’d rather the kids tweeted productive things to the campaign to help stop distracted driving than just be fooling around on their phones during the presentations,” he said.
“We know they’re going to be on their phones anyway, so we just use our social media to keep them engaged and interactive with the presentations. Through that use of social media, we can engage the communities we enter.
“Through social media, a lot of people have come forward and said a family member or friend of theirs has been affected by distracted driving and they share what’s done to them. A lot of the public doesn’t know that 80 per cent of our crashes that happen on Alberta roads are related to distracted driving. That’s huge. To really get that through to these students and to have them realize how big of a problem it is in our province is great,” he added.
Thompson and his team have been using the slogan, ‘Five seconds can change your life forever’ to help get their message across.
“I think the biggest thing is that people come forward and realize what a change in their life five seconds can make – that short statement has been our kind of theme to the entire campaign. It’s all about how quickly your life can change writing one text,” he said.
Follow the campaign’s progression at www.parkerthompsonracing.com.