Most want to avoid reliving painful memories, but Scott Briggs, a seventh-grade math teacher at Newark Middle School, has done this for more than 20 years.
Briggs regularly shares the story of how his dad, Earl, and three Red Creek boys lost their lives in a road rage incident on April 26, 1997.
Briggs’ hope in reliving his pain is that it compels listeners to think twice before acting angrily and irresponsibly while driving in response to rude or inattentive drivers. He urges anyone who will listen to think about every decision they make when they are behind the wheel, because anything that changes or alters a person’s state of mind when they are driving can contribute to road rage.
The NMS teacher has shared his message more than 500 times in driver education and health classes; at school assemblies and service organization meetings throughout the region; on TV, including “48 Hours” on CBS; in newspaper interviews; and with inmates.
Briggs will serve as keynote speaker at the ninth annual New York State Driver Traffic Safety Education Association conference at 9 a.m. on March 3 at Turning Stone Conference Center in Oneida. His message, “Road Rage: Is It Worth It?,” will be heard by NYSDTSEA members from across the state.
NYSDTSEA is a professional teaching organization comprised of high school and college driver education teachers, supervisors, coordinators and safety enthusiasts throughout the state.
“I feel humbled that I have been asked to be speak and nervous at the same time,” Briggs said. “The feedback I receive is positive, and teachers continue to ask me back to speak to their classes every year. I plan to do this as long as I feel I am being effective.”
Briggs received 13WHAM-TV’s New York Lottery Educator of the Week Award in 2008. He was nominated for the award by his wife, Cindy, an instrumental music teacher at Kelley School and K-12 music department leader.
Briggs doesn’t restrict his talks to the subject of road rage, but also the consequences of drinking and/or distracted driving because of improper cell phone use like texting.
Seven weeks after his father and the others were killed, Briggs started sharing the story with summer driver education classes. He spoke about his commitment to speak about their deaths in a 2008 interview.
“It was the best thing I could have done,’’ Briggs said. “For about four years, it really helped me work through it. Losing someone you love so much is not easy to get over, but after that it became much harder to do. I had begun to heal, and each time I made a presentation to another group it forced me to relive the situation all over again. It has gotten much harder to do this as the years have gone on. I never look forward to speaking about it, but I know that what I am doing is worth it when I see the effect it has on the students and others who are sitting in the seats listening. So I know I am making a difference.
“The bottom line is I am determined to make sure that my father did not die in vain. He always wanted to help others when he saw a need. After the accident, as badly injured as he was, he told the rescue workers, ‘I’m okay. Go over and help them first.’ I know my dad would think what I am doing is really important. Teaching math and working with kids in school is rewarding, and I enjoy it, but this experience provides a different reward. The impact I’m having is immediately evident from the reactions I see, and it sticks with them.’’
His reasons for speaking out haven’t changed, but strengthened his resolve to try to save lives by averting tragedy on the road.
Cindy Briggs said their household was affected by Earl Briggs’ death. Their twins, Brendan and McKenna, are sophomores at Newark High School. Their daughter, Alexandra, is a freshman.
“Scott’s dad, who died at 60, lost a lot of time with his family and grandchildren, so family is first to us,” she said. “We try hard to do as many things as we can together.’’