English Alumna Dedicates Career to Highway Safety Efforts
More than 2,400 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and nearly 300,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Pam Shadel Fischer ’81 has spent the past 30 years of her career working to improve those statistics. She served as the director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the vice president of public affairs for the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club, and now works as a transportation safety consultant.
Fischer returned to campus in October as part of a panel to talk with students about careers in transportation and traffic safety. We asked her about her experiences and how LVC influenced her path.
What has been your most rewarding career accomplishment?
Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group on the road, but there are proven countermeasures that can help reduce that risk. In New Jersey, we’ve strengthened our novice driver law to include key countermeasures (an earlier curfew, a one-passenger limit, the nation’s first license plate decal to aid with enforcement) as well as developed an education program for parents and their teens that has helped push teen driver and teen passenger fatalities to historic lows. I work with many states and non-profit organizations to help them advance similar legislature measures and educational initiatives.
I also collaborated with a friend, who had lost his 17-year-old son in a crash, to co-author the 2nd edition of the book, Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving, which was released this past April.
In what ways did your time at LVC influence you and your career?
I never imagined I’d be working in traffic safety, but my English degree from LVC has absolutely served me well. Thanks to my professors, I learned to think critically, to delve into an issue and ask questions, and to convey information clearly and succinctly.
I completed three internships while I was at LVC—at an association in Harrisburg, at WITF Radio, and at the Lebanon Daily News—and all three helped me realize that you can do so much with an English degree.
What advice would you give current LVC students?
Hone your oral and written communication skills and you will go far! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered in my career that are tremendously smart and talented, but their writing skills are abysmal. Being able to effectively convey information via the spoken word is still vital in this era of emails and tweets. Face-to-face conversation is essential for building your network and advancing professionally.
Why do you give back to LVC?
I loved everything about my LVC experience from the classroom to the activities to dorm life. I received an outstanding education and made wonderful friends that I continue to keep in touch with. I’m a cheerleader for LVC and am happy that I’m financially able to give back so that others can benefit from all The Valley has to offer. I was the first generation in my family to go to college and without the scholarships, grants, and financial aid made available to me at LVC, it would have been very difficult for me to attend a private institution.