Wilmington, NC,
16
February
2016
|
07:00 AM
America/Chicago

A Lifesaving Challenge

My name is Doug Darrell and I’m a retired police officer. One of my hardest duties as a cop was knocking on a door to tell a parent their child had been in a crash and would never return home.

I’m also a dad and when my sons reached driving age, I was scared to death. What if, one day, some police officer came to my door to tell me my son was dead? After confiding this to a friend, that friend challenged me to do something.

At a picnic table in 1999 we created the Streetsafe Lifesaving Driving Experience. It’s a combination of driving exercises and discussions with students and parents about responsibilities, choices, driving behaviors, costs and consequences. The end goal: help save teen lives.

Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, so I never anticipated any difficulty in convincing others something needed to be done. For years, experts told me “nothing works with teens” and “you’re wasting your time.” Banks turned us down, we couldn’t find insurance, and even willing first responder instructors doubted Streetsafe could get off the ground.

Eight years after the picnic table discussion, we finally had a breakthrough. We were able to get insurance and secure financing. My wife and I invested personal savings, bought vehicles and equipment and held the first Streetsafe session in July 2007…in the rain.

The response from students – from the first session through today – reinforces our belief that we are on the right track.

“It was a great opportunity to bring the real dangers of reckless driving into perspective. Working with the instructors was refreshing,” shared Celestine Eshiet, a student participant. “They were non-judgmental and were really in it to help us appreciate the idea of street safety. I’m now committed to driving safer and watching my speed.”

Parents thank us for teaching them about the financial liabilities they face having an inexperienced driver on their insurance and for reinforcing their own role and responsibilities in their child’s driver education.

“StreetSafe was a fantastic experience for my son! He thoroughly enjoyed it and has a greater respect overall when driving. It also scared him a bit, which is good,” shared Todd Engle, a parent. “He needed to see what overconfidence can do to an inexperienced young driver. I know my wife and I made the right decision enrolling him in the course.”

In 2008, the first full year of StreetSafe, we completed ten hands-on sessions. Today, we have 10 regional teams and over 200 first responders, district attorneys, and judges teaching the program throughout NC.

“Of all the feedback I receive from the community, I consistently hear nothing but praise about this program. Whether it is high school students, college kids, or parents, everyone agrees this is time well spent,” shared Ben David, New Hanover County District Attorney.

Thankfully, State Farm has been along for the ride since 2009, supporting StreetSafe programs with funding and agent volunteers.

In 2015, we completed 153 hands-on-sessions, dozens of alcohol education workshops and high school presentations reaching nearly 12,000 young drivers and their families.

Never in our most far-reaching dreams did we expect to find ourselves reaching more than 80,000 people.

We hoped to find a way to make kids safer and more responsible on the road. We think we have. And if we save just one life, it has been worth it….