HAZARD—Hey — a simple, three letter word used in everyday conversation by most without thinking twice. It is also a word that, according to a distracted driving program held at Hazard High School this week, could end a life.
Principal Happy Mobelini said the Distracted Driving Program, part of the National Save a Life Tour, was brought to the high school by Appalachian Regional Healthcare in an attempt to make sure every student understands the impact that distracted driving — something that has become commonplace for drivers of all ages — can have.
“What we want them to take away from it is just to please put their phones up while they’re driving,” Mobelini said. “I mean, all you have to do is drive through town and you can see everybody doing it.”
Mobelini said freshman through senior students started the program Friday morning with a graphic video depicting real car wrecks caused by distracted driving.
“We had several kids leave during the video, upset, crying. It brought it more to life I think, I mean because they’re actually seeing it,” Mobelini explained.
Senior J.T. Haynes completed the simulation part of the program, and admitted he didn’t expect it to be much of a challenge.
“I thought it wasn’t going to be too hard,” he said.
Haynes said though he tries not to text and drive in real life, he does text while stopped at stop lights and signs. During the simulation participants drive a simulated course, kind of like playing a video game, while answering questions via texts for four minutes or until they wreck.
“Every time I looked at my phone I was all over the road, and going in the opposite lane, having to swerve for cars, not seeing stop signs and things,” Haynes said.
According to the Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles, all drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using cell phones while driving, and texting is illegal for all drivers of all ages.
Mobelini said he wanted to make sure every student at his school was impacted by the program, which was why students like freshman Rebekah Vermillion, who does not drive yet, were able to participate.
“It makes it a lot scarier to know that you have so much responsibility on you once you actually start driving, especially if you have other people in the car with you,” she said. “It’s scary knowing that you can alter so many other lives by just sending a text message.”
One of the major messages of the program was that not only should drivers be sure not to text and drive but others should be sure to not text those they know are driving.
“I don’t text and drive, because I’ve heard about the dangers of it, and I tell my friends not to text and drive and I get angry when someone texts me when I’m driving,” said senior Josi Stidham. “If you’re driving and someone’s texting you that’s inconsiderate on their part.”
Stidham said the program made a significant impact on her partly because she knows what it feels like to have been in a car wreck.
“I was actually in a car wreck Nov. 29 last year. It wasn’t a distracted driving accident, but it still scared me” she said. “Seeing that just being distracted and how much it ups your chances of being in a wreck and how many lives it can affect, I mean everyone in that collision I was in was lucky because we all walked away with no injuries or anything. People lose their lives because of a text.”
Haynes said he knows there will be at least one thing that he and his classmates take away once they have finished the program: “Do not text and drive.”