November 5, 2015 (Album) - Shelbyville ISD High School was host to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Passenger Safety Project representatives who were instructing students on the dangers of distracted driving on Wednesday, November 4, 2015.
Bev Kellner and Mike Guidry Passenger Safety Project visiting schools across Texas to enlighten students about the consequences of distracted driving. The program began in the Shelbyville ISD cafeteria where a slide show presentation was given by Kellner and Guidry depicting many of the causes of distracted driving and how to try and avoid such incidents.
Kellner said statistically teens are more likely to want to text than call someone on their cellular phone and studies have even demonstrated the addictive attraction of texting by monitoring the release of endorphin in someone who receives a text message. She stated teens are at the highest risk of the danger of distracted driving, but adults are also at risk. Kellner quizzed the students as to how many have parents that text and drive with a large number raising their hands to indicate they have parents who text and drive.
20% of crashes are attributed to distracted driving, statistically; however, Kellner says it is known that a large number are not reported to be crashes attributed to distraction as it isn't common for a driver to admit to an officer they were texting when driving. Also, unless the crash is serious enough, or a fatality has occurred, cellular phone records which would demonstrate a driver was texting at the time are not likely to be subpoenaed.
Someone who is distracted is likely to take twice as long to react while driving and it is 23 times more likely a crash will occur with a distracted driver than one who is not.
"Here's to me a very scary thought, that texting and driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving," said Kellner.
The prevalence of drivers texting was exampled by the commonality of students in the audience remarking, when asked, how many drivers they witnessed on their phones while they were en route to school. Kellner stated most teen deaths are the result of automobile crashes and the majority who die in crashes are not wearing safety belts.
"58% of the crashes involving teens are due to distracted driving, and that again comes to inexperience," said Kellner. "The more you drive, and if you can survive your own driving, the more you drive and the more experience you get, the better driver you'll be."
Kellner said pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll than other vehicles. More teens in a vehicle increases the possibility of a crash occurring and according to the graduated driver's license law, a teenage driver is not allowed to have more than one person in the car with them under the age of 21 unless they are a relation. A driver under the age of 18 is also not allowed to use a cellular phone. Kellner implored the students to read and learn the graduated driver's license law.
A Distracted Driving Simulator was setup in the main lobby of the high school where several students from each high school class were able to participate.
State Farm has donated the funding for the equipment through a grant allowing for the Passenger Safety Project to use the simulator to instruct students. Sandy Wheeler, local State Farm Agent, was present throughout the demonstration and she agreed the project is a worthwhile one.
"I think it's awesome, I think it shows the kids can be distracted by other things besides texts," said Wheeler.
As the students took turns using the simulator, their fellow students became active participants by pretending to be passengers in the simulated vehicle and offering the distractions which can so easily break a driver's concentration.
One student, Corey Bearden, while participating with the simulator shared with everyone that he had been involved in a distracted driving incident. He showed a picture on his cell phone of a mangled white pickup truck. Kellner and Guidry asked Bearden to share his story when they return to the school on November 17th.
The passenger safety project has been in existence for several years with their main goals being to increase seat belt use and the correct use of car seats, as well as education on the dangers of distracted driving.
"We got this idea of how we could reach the teens better with this message by giving them a hands-on experience in a safe environment, where they could see the effects immediately of when they take their eyes off the road," said Kellner. "We're also having those other teens act as if they're passengers in the car and that is the main reason for teens having crashes is other passengers in the car, followed by cell phone use."
Kellner says the program is approaching its third year running and they visit about 50 schools in a year. Along with schools, they also visit safety fairs and workplaces to educate there also.
"We've worked with some oil companies and other big employers that want to encourage safe driving to their employees, because we know that one of the most dangerous times for employees is when they're commuting to work," said Kellner.
Shelbyville ISD will be hosting a health fair on November 17, 2015 and representatives of the Passenger Safety Project will be bringing their Rollover Convincer simulator, which demonstrates a vehicle rollover with dummies to show what occurs.
Any other schools in Shelby County desiring the Passenger Safety Project to come to their school can contact Bev Kellner at 979-862-1782 or through the local AgriLife Extension office at 936-598-7744
The Passenger Safety Project facebook address is - https://www.facebook.com/PassengerSafetyProject