Cultivate Winter 2019

Page 20

Drive Smart Virginia educates drivers

Drive Smart Virginia exists “solely to save lives on the roadways of Virginia,” said Executive Director Janet Brooking (above). The organization has operated a variety of safety campaigns and events


i, I was expecting your call. Let me take you off speakerphone, so people don’t think I’m sitting here talking to myself.” That’s how Drive Smart Virginia Executive Director Janet Brooking answered the phone from her parked car. As leader of an organization whose main message is “Buckle Up. Phone Down.” Brooking not only talks the talk, but also diligently walks the walk. Drive Smart Virginia is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1995 by six of Virginia’s insurance companies—Allstate, GEICO, Nationwide, State Farm, USAA and Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.—to educate drivers about traffic safety. “We exist solely to save lives on the roadways of Virginia,” Brooking said. “We look at the ways to reach people, 20


educate them and help change their behavior.” The organization has five employees and is led by a diverse board of directors that includes safety advocates, association and corporate representatives and law enforcement. “We have a very high-functioning team, and we rely heavily on our board and partners,” Brooking added. Drive Smart Virginia also has a Safe Driving Coalition of about 100 companies and organizations in Virginia. Member groups receive monthly newsletters, newspaper clippings and safety-related promotional materials. Brooking said the organization spent its first 10 years focusing on seat belt use and its benefits. “There’s a good number of people buckling up now,” she added. Drive Smart Virginia takes on any issue that can raise traffic safety

awareness among all road users to save lives and reduce injuries. Areas of particular interest have included speed, pedestrian fatalities and drinking and driving.

Distracted driving Preventing distracted driving has now become a major focus for Drive Smart Virginia, and Brooking said the organization was one of the first in the nation to highlight its importance. In the early 2000s a board member shared information about a distracted driving awareness event held at their workplace in hopes that Drive Smart Virginia would take the message statewide—and they did. “That’s how we came up with a Distracted Driving Awareness Day, which led to a week and now a whole month, which is April and is recognized nationally,” Brooking explained. It’s also how the Distracted Driving

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