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May 30, 2013
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Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief 10-43: Be Advised...
with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief

3 photos to stop teens from texting and driving

Does your ‘officer’s discretion’ allow you to use photographs — such as the three posted within this article — as teaching tools to ‘scare them straight’ during a citation stop?

Chula Vista (Calif.) Motor Officer Nathaniel Walker was seriously injured and is “fortunate to be alive” after being ejected from his motorcycle in a multi-vehicle accident caused by a teenage driver who was reportedly texting on her phone just prior to the collision. 

Walker is reported to be in tremendous pain, but the good news is that he is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing surgery last night. 

Folks, we need to get more creative about how we stop people from texting and driving, because what we’re presently doing doesn’t seem to be working well enough. For example, does your PD allow for ‘officer’s discretion’ up to and including crash scene photographs — such as the three posted within this article — as teaching tools to ‘scare them straight’ during a citation stop? 

Consider Creative Options
Two years ago, I wrote about this video, produced and and distributed by AT&T, which I contended (then as I do now) should be run on a continuous loop at every DMV office in the country.

This article topic — finding new, creative ways to stop people (teens in particular, but everyone) from texting/talking while driving — has been seething inside me since before I even saw that video, and the incident in Chula Vista yesterday not only reinforces the issue, but reignites my passion about it.

By coincidence, just yesterday I received from a buddy of mine — a retired officer from Southern California, also by coincidence — the images you see in this article. 

It’s not the first time those images hit my inbox.

In fact, I’ve probably received the exact same images from 20 different people in the past five years. I don’t even know where they originate from, but every time I see them, I wonder the same thing:

Would the chief (and the rest of the brass) in Anytown USA allow his/her cops to keep a copy of these pictures to use as teaching tools for teens being ticketed for texting while driving?  

For some departments, probably yes, for others, probably no. It all comes down to their own discretion... 

The images are of the carnage created when the driver of the Volkswagen was “talking on a cell phone when she pulled out from a side street, apparently not seeing the motorcycle.”

The motorcycle ended up INSIDE the passenger compartment of the car. 

The motorcycle rider and both of the car’s occupants were killed instantly.  

It appears from these images that the twisted wreckage was installed in a shopping mall or some other public place — ostensibly for demonstration value. 

Some high schools use Prom/Graduation season to display a mangled car in front of the building as a sort of “scared straight” demonstration of what can happen to drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Mine did, and that was nearly 30 years ago.

Consider These Questions
•    Do you have a clear idea of how much ‘officer’s discretion’ you have for your traffic stops?
•    If you were ticketing a texting driver, would you be willing to show them these photos?
•    Would you talk with your department leadership to determine a policy one way or the other?
•    Does your department have a solid, existing relationship with your local driving instructors? 
•    Are those educators asking for (or open to receiving) help in teaching kids about texting while driving?

Conclusions and an Admonition
Family, friends, and fellow officers have stayed by Officer Walker’s side at hospital in Southern California, and we at PoliceOne stand by his side in spirit nationwide.

Even as we collectively hope and pray for Officer Walker’s speedy recovery, we must immediately begin talking seriously about finding new, creative ways to stop teens from texting/talking while driving. 

If you think it’s appropriate — and if you get the approval from your department brass to do so — consider showing these images if your discretion at the time deems it to be appropriate. 

Further, I strongly encourage you to post in the comments area below any/all ideas on how to accomplish the goal of eliminating once and for all this problem.

Oh, yeah, and one last item: For everyone’s sake — you, your family, your friends, and those kids you’re trying to positively influence — please don’t text and drive. Don’t check email and drive.

Don’t do the stuff we tell our kids to not do. 

They read our actions far more than they hear our words. 


About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 750 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

Read more articles by PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie by clicking here.

Contact Doug Wyllie





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