Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

October 19, 2012

SDHS strives to teach safe driving

Rob Cox
Greensburg Daily News

Westport — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated Oct. 14 to 20 as “National Teen Driver Safety Week,” and students at South Decatur High School (SDHS) have been staging  events all week to remind kids about safe driving habits.

The school’s chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) have organized the efforts.

Katey Evans, a senior, is a two-year SADD member. Evans has contributed to the effort by reading public-service announcements with the regular morning announcements.

“I’m basically reading statistics related to texting and driving and distracted driving,” Evans said.

In example, Evans offered the following numbers: More than 100,000 serious, life-altering crashes each year involve texting drivers; 77 percent of teens have seen their parents text and drive; 75 percent of teens say texting and driving is common among their friends; texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident; 97 percent of teens agree texting and driving is dangerous, but 43 percent admit to doing it.

“If I’m riding with one of my friends,” Evans said, “and one of them pulls out a cell phone, I ask if I can reply for them so that they’re not distracted and we’re not in danger.”

Wednesday morning, Evans and other SADD members conducted a random safety-belt check of teachers and students as they pulled into the SDHS parking lot.

According to Evans, the random screen of 66 cars netted 10 drivers who weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Seven of the violators were male students, with two male teachers and one female teacher making up the rest of the violators.

On Thursday, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department visited the school with a texting and driving computer simulator on loan from the Criminal Justice Institute of Indiana. Sheriff Greg Allen supervised the demonstration, allowing the school’s juniors and seniors to practice their driving skills under various scenarios involving distracted driving.

The school will conclude its observance of National Teen Driver Safety week Friday during lunch period, with a “click-click challenge.”

According to Evans, the click-click challenge involves four-person teams racing around the car clicking in and out of the car’s safety belts as quickly as possible until the entire team has rounded the car.

“The winning team gets a ‘Rocks the Belt’ tee-shirt,” Evans said.

SDHS principal Jim Jameson said he couldn’t be prouder of the initiative students have taken in putting the week’s events together.

“As a principal,” Jameson said, “part of my job is to make sure students transition from high school into well-rounded and be productive adults. These students take all the initiative on this; they come up with all the activities on their own and organize them. So the message is coming from peers, which makes kids more likely to listen and take it more seriously. It shows a lot of good citizenry on the part of these students. We need a whole lot more of that in the world today.”

Jameson admitted that his kids are among the 77 percent of teens who’ve seen a parent text a drive.

“I admit it,” he said. “I’ve been guilty of it. It was actually my kids getting onto me about it that motivated me to quit. Besides, as principal of my school, I have to be a good role model. I believe in leading by example, and I take that part of my job very seriously. How can I possibly tell kids not to text and drive if I’m doing it myself? The texts can wait. None of them is worth dying for.”

“Back when I was a teen driver,” he continued, “you had the car radio and the kids in the car, doing whatever silly things kids do, to distract you from driving. These days, you still have those, plus you’ve got cell phones, smart phones, iPads, laptops, netbooks and every other gadget you can think of. Obviously, you can’t take away kids’ cell phones, but we’ve got to do all we can as educators to get the message out about distracted driving. It’s not a game; pay attention or you could die or get somebody killed.”

Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.