Dangers of distracted driving illustrated at WC Monday


Janell Bradley
Contributing Writer


Whether it's because they were ticketed, crashed into a guardrail, or missed a stop sign, a program emphasizing the dangers of distracted driving will likely have students at West Central talking the rest of the week.

Eighth- through 12th-grade students at West Central Schools had an opportunity to be part of a simulation that poses situations resulting from distracted driving. 

As youths sat at the wheel in one-on-one situations, they were sent random text message questions requiring a response. As students attempted to answer the texts while keeping their vehicle between the center line and the curb and while watching for school buses, delivery vehicles and pedestrians, a monitor judged them for speed on the road and ability to watch the traffic. Students were "ticketed" for swerving, driving too fast or too slow, and sometimes for striking other vehicles.

Before students attempted the simulator, they watched a graphic, 20-minute video illustrating actual accidents resulting from inattentive driving and scenarios from the emergency room. Of a group of teenagers traveling together in a car, there is only one survivor.

That, said WC technology coordinator Mike Heinemeyer, had a lot of impact on the students watching the video.

While each of the high school seniors in attendance admitted to having read or sent text messages while driving, they said the video got the message across more than anything else.

"We all know it's illegal to text and drive, but the video was very graphic," said senior Tyler Ruff.

Classmate, Sera Carey added, "No one's going to get the message unless you show real death to get that message across." 

Monday's video brought tears to the eyes of some students, particularly when they saw teenagers blaming themselves for another's death.

Program facilitator Cody Beerthuis, with the "Save a Life Tour," told students that when they look at the small, digital phone screen and then back at the road, they often lose their peripheral vision. He said that while distractions can endanger driver safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive.

On average, Beerthuis said 5,474 people are killed on U.S roadways and an estimated 448,000 more are injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving.

The WC Booster Club provided $1,250 toward bringing the program to the school – the only such simulation being offered in a high school in the area, said WC instructor Steve Milder.

After students were rotated through the program throughout the school day, a presentation was hosted for the public from 4 to 7 p.m. in the gymnasium.

The message to all who participated in Monday's program: Before you do anything that could distract you from driving, think of whether or not it's worth it, because it could cause you to lose your life or take the life of another.


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