LYNCHBURG, Va (WFXR) — Sunday kicked off National Passenger Safety Week, an initiative started in 2022 by The National Road Safety Foundation alongside “We Save Lives,” an organization that advocates for safe driving.

In 2020, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that passengers made up 24 percent of traffic fatalities nationwide.

Candace Lightner founded “We Save Lives” back in 2014.

“Every passenger can feel empowered to save a life and realize that the first life they need to save is their own,” said Lightner.

Lightner lost her own daughter to an impaired driver and is passionate about empowering young people to take initiative when it comes to safety.

“Working with young people, I began to realize that so many of them were passengers in cars with dangerous drivers, that didn’t know how to handle the situation, and remained in the car,” said Lightner.

Lightner says there are about 60 organizations that support passenger safety week, but says passenger safety is a year-round campaign.

Additionally, first responder Matthew Snead says distracted driving has caused a recent increase in vehicle incidents.

“Cell phones, keep them away. Keep them in the glove box keep them in the center console, just not in your hands,” said Snead.

Snead also adds that passengers can play an active role in keeping everyone in the car safe.

“You can always be a spotter. We’ve always got things like deer and other animals crossing the road, maybe other people at other intersections they may not see. Tou can always be that extra set of eyes,” said Snead.

Lightner adds that distracted or impaired driving is a choice. Both she and Snead say drivers need to take responsibility when driving.

“Stay off your phones, wear your seatbelts — that’s the two biggest things,” said Snead.

“Drive safe, drive focused, and drive sober,” adds Lightner.

To learn more about National Passenger Safety Week and get information on resources available to help keep you and your family safe you can visit here.