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Remarks - Protecting Kids on the Move - Youth Activist Panel - Safe Roads Safe Kids Summit, Washington, DC
T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH
Washington, DC
12/9/2016

Thank you, Kate. It is a pleasure to be here with all of you at the Safe Roads Safe Kids Summit.

I also would like to recognize my colleagues from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), who are here today: Stephanie Shaw and Leah Walton.  I look forward to talking with many of you after this panel and I hope you will take the opportunity to talk with Stephanie and Leah also.

I am very pleased to moderate this panel of youth activists, who will help make sure we do not forget the voices of young people in our fight for safer roads.  Just a little over a year ago, I was in Brazil speaking at the Children and Youth Session of the Global Conference on Road Safety – a session organized by YOURS (Youth for Road Safety) and the Child Injury Prevention Alliance which highlighted the voices of youth, voices that rang strong and true even in the midst of high level ministers from around the world.  I always have believed in the power of youth (I was even a youth myself once!) and I never underestimate what youth can do.  Youth have powerful voices and you will hear some of those voices today.

In road safety, it is easy to get lost in the statistics, in the technical details of road safety problems and solutions, and to forget that, behind every road safety incident is a story that is about our ability to keep our communities, our families, and people we care about safe.  In my own work at the NTSB, we carefully investigate transportation disasters – of planes, trains, ships, pipelines, and motor vehicles – to find out what happened to prevent tragedy from happening again.  Although we pride ourselves on our scientific rigor and technical knowledge, we also never forget that behind every crash, there are many people who have been affected – people, who have families and coworkers and are valued members of their community.  At the NTSB, although every type of crash is devastating, we also never forget that of all the modes of transportation, we lose the most people, and the most young people, on our roads.

The panelists, who are with us today, come from across the United States, but they bring messages about road safety that can benefit all of us, no matter where we live in the world.  They are all youth activists and they have something else in common: They have a personal story about how they became deeply involved with the road safety issue.  For most of them, it also is a story about how they turned something terrible that happened to them into something good for their communities. How they took one of the most devastating incidents in their lives and turned it into a real action for behavior change, for legislative change, for a change in our culture of safety.

We will hear their stories, but that is not all.  We also will hear their recommendations for steps we can take to make roads safer…with a strong emphasis on keeping kids safe on the way to and from school. These activists are part of the growing consensus that starting with schools is a great way to mobilize communities and to spread improved safety.

We have a lot to learn from these young people. First, about the tragedies that ensue when we do not make safety a top priority; Second, about how to organize and push for action; In addition, third, about how to be resilient and get inspired in a way that can help us achieve our goals more quickly.

I would like to remind everyone that, in the spirit of widening awareness and prompting engagement, this panel is being streamed on Facebook Live. We also are encouraging everyone to get the word out on all their social media channels, using the hashtags, #protectkids and #protectkidsonthemove.

Now I would like to introduce our youth activists:

  • Madison Rose Chambers, a sophomore from La Mirada High School in Mirada, California;
  • Nicole Henderson, a youth activist from Charlotte, North Carolina;
  • Tony Hofmann, a youth activist from Peoria, Illinois;
  • Jacob Smith, a junior at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island; and
  • Skylar Yoder, a sophomore at Cornell University.

Each one of them has a personal story to tell, and we will do that now, starting with Madison followed by Nicole, Tony, Jacob, and Skylar.  Then our panelists will answer questions, including questions from the audience.

[Youth panel speaks and answers questions.]

It has been an excellent discussion between our youth activists and the audience.  Thank you once again to our youth activists who remind us, once again, to never underestimate the power of youth, to be resilient, and to keep working together to make our world safer.