Early Monday morning, June 20, 2011, Ryan Dunn and a passenger were killed in a car accident in Pennsylvania. Ryan appeared in all three seasons of "Jackass" on MTV, as well as their movies.
Shortly after the news of Ryan's death broke (along with preliminary reports of speeding and photos of him drinking at the bar hours before the accident), Roger Ebert tweeted "Friends Don't Let Jackasses Drink and Drive". Although Roger did not "intend to be cruel"- he "intended to be true", there was a lot of backlash to his play on the old PSA tagline. Ryan's friends and colleagues from "Jackass" tweeted their anger in response and popular celebrity blogger Perez Hilton posted that Roger responded insensitively to Ryan's death. All felt that it was too soon to hold Ryan up as an example of the dangers of drinking and driving.
So the question I pose is: How soon is too soon to capitalize on a "teachable moment"?
Teachable moments are important in public health. They let us identify a time when our audiences will be more open to prevention education/intervention because they will see its relevance to their lives. Often the identification and sustainability of teachable moments are supported by media reports on the health/lives of celebrities.
As this week has moved along, more information has been released about the accident that killed Ryan Dunn and his passenger. His alcohol level was approximately twice the legal limit in Pennsylvania (0.196%) and he was traveling at a very high rate of speed (estimated at 132-140 mph) at the time of collision. Therefore, there is clearly a lesson to be learned here- about speeding and about drinking and driving. But much of these lessons our audience already knows. If you drink and drive- you could die (and/or kill someone else). If you speed- you could die (and/or kill someone else).
So maybe the lessons have to be broader. Apparently Ryan had a history of speeding and driving under the influence. These factors put him at risk. What could he, his friends, his family, the courts, the bar done to prevent this tragedy? What about the bystanders? His friends at the bar...employees at the bar...his friend who ultimately got into the car...could someone have stopped him from driving? What are the lessons you find in this story and how/when should they be communicated?