#WhyWait4Tragedy: Avoidable harm is unacceptable harm

There are way too many negative things in our lives that what we have gotten used to.

People are dying from diseases that are either preventable or curable – unacceptable.

People are dying because of easily avoidable accidents, because we are not careful enough.

Young people are losing their lives because our societies believe that “this is how youth have always lived” – at the edge of danger. When we find ourselves in a position where we have to admit that we could have done something, we probably should have.

Alcohol is a frequent component in these avoidable circumstances. That mind-altering substance transforms the way we see ourselves and the world around us. It also changes the way we are able to perform in otherwise normal life circumstances. But from generation to generation we tend to forget it. We continue living with myths, thinking that alcohol is something to relieve our pain and stress, even though it actually is a depressant. We pass these myths on to our children and our youth are growing up thinking that alcohol is a synonym to partying and having good time. In reality that means that they don´t know how to behave and handle themselves while being drunk or when their friends are intoxicated.

Year after year a certain number, similar to last year, our young people are dying because of alcohol mixed with driving. This is all preventable harm. We could avoid it. And it is probably not because we don´t want to prevent these senseless deaths and accidents. We just do not believe it would happen to our loved ones and us.

That belief, why we aren´t careful enough and take precautionary steps to avoid possible mistakes and accidents, is also called optimism bias. Academic Tali Sharot explained it recently to VICE: “There are a few reasons for optimism bias. One is the issue of control. You tend to believe you have control over your life, and you tend to believe you have more control than you actually do. Most of us overestimate the potential of everything ever.”

Unfortunately, that belief in our control is regularly smashed families. Nobody expects it, but it happens again and again. In bitter regret, a person thinks about what he or she could have done differently, how the accident could have been avoided. But then it´s obviously too late.

It is essential to understand that there is a possibility and the right time to act. Not Your Child Corp. started a new movement recently, hopefully a global one, that urges each and every one of us to think that we can make a difference by preventing the avoidable harm. The movement called #WhyWait4Tragedy points to the most important aspect – we don´t have to be passive bystanders.
Campaigns slogan says that “Because in matters of life and death, hindsight is just too late”. If that hindsight wisdom has brought us here to think and understand the importance of being active and ready to prevent, let´s use it and become wiser and more protective in the future. There is absolutely no reason why we should tolerate harm that can be avoided. It is not a matter of luck that we have to be OK with.

Not Your Child Corp. supports the campaign with a very concrete product that enables parents to protect their children and their friends. That new product helps by combining a breathalyser, GPS and auto locking technologies. You’ll be able to prevent your child from starting the car if impaired and monitor your child’s speed and location from their phones while driving.

In addition to a breathalyser, I would highlight the ability to set geofences and points of interests so that if the driver enters such places as a bar, pubs or a predetermined street address, an alert will be sent to the parent.

“But I have a trusting relationship with my child,” you might say. As we all should. Studies show that by setting clear limits, parents can improve communication with their children and continue building a trusting relationship. So precisely that combination is what teenagers need – a trusting relationship with their parents who also set limits and who watch out for their children.

Again and again, teenagers find themselves in situations where they didn´t plan to be. They may find themselves in a crowd they can´t control. They will see that peer pressure grows over their heads. They will need help. Help from their parents. So why wait for a tragedy? Act now!

Lauri Beekmann
Executive director, Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network