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The dangers of texting and driving
Hall-Dale High School Senior Zac Stearns and Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers engage Mountain Valley High School students in a discussion about distracted driving.
RUMFORD -- Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers presented some sobering information to Mountain Valley High School juniors and seniors about the dangers of texting and driving.
The session was part of the high school's Keeping Students Safe Program, which will feature a different session every Wednesday until Memorial Day.
Summers began, “I am glad to talk to you about an issue I feel strongly about – teen driving. You will be entering into the 10 most deadly days for teen drivers. Just since Christmas, 20 young people have lost their lives on the highways in Maine.”
He queried the audience “who knows what the leading of death for your age group?”
“You’re right – car crashes.”
He continued with audience participation “Who texts and drives?” A few students raised their hands. “Who knows someone who texts and drives?” Every student raised a hand.
“Give me an example of your last text,” he asked.
The examples included a picture of a bag of lettuce, “I’ll be home at 7,” and “thank you.”
Summers asked, “Are these messages worth your life or someone else’s life?”
He then showed a brief video produced by AT&T about texting and driving. The video opened with an emotional Missouri State Trooper talking about an accident scene with a fatality. The deceased driver had her graduation gown in the car and was scheduled to graduate the next day. She died texting “Yeah” to her sister.
“Even though I supervise the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, I’m just an old guy in a suit to you,” Summers continued. “I introduce you to Zac Stearn from Hall-Dale High School. He has his senior project to share with you.”
“I’m just like you,” Stearn began. He outlined a senior capstone program that he and classmate Matt Ingalls created – Distracted Driving Awareness Program (DDAP).
He asked for examples of what might distract a driver. The students provided – iPods, music, eating, friends and putting on make up.
“Personally, I like to do my make up at home,” Stearn joked.
“Those activities take about five seconds. In those five seconds, if you are driving at 55 mph, you go the distance of a football field.”
He then explained the five second principle, “In five seconds time, a driver has to make three decisions; brake, gas, swerve. However, if the driver is distracted the time that it takes to make that decision is lessened to two seconds. The human brain cannot process those three options in a matter of two seconds. A non-distracted driver has five full seconds to analyze the situation and determine the most appropriate response and manage to avoid an accident. The human mind can do this in the time that it is allotted. Five seconds is enough time to let the brain decide Brake, Gas or Swerve. When the brain is given two seconds to make that decision, the accident is almost inevitable.
Stearn’s presentation included several statistics:
* 80% of all auto accidents involve distracted driving;
* 61% of teens admit to texting while driving
* Texting while driving increases the risk of getting into a car accident by 50%
* Glancing at your ipod for just a second increases the risk of getting into a car accident by three times.
Summers took the stage to show a video trailer for “Point of No Return.” Students at Kennebunk High School were the stars of the video.
After the trailer, Summers presented a copy of the video to Rumford Police Sergeant Tracey Higley.
Higley commented later that he will use video as part of the on-going Keeping Kids Safe (KKS) program. The program will culminate with a barbeque and trip to Old Orchard Beach.
The presentation concluded with an invitation for MVHS students to sign a pledge not to text and drive. Many students added their signatures to a pledge poster.