VERSAILLES — Versailles High School’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Student Council and Team Leadership helped bring the “Save A Life Tour” to the students, Friday, April 28.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives in 2015. With those growing statistics, Versailles Exempted Village School Nurse Tracy Cordonnier said she has been trying to get the “Save A Life Tour” to the school for more than a year. With grants extended to schools, the program costs around $3,000, she said.
“Distracted driving has become such a big issue, not only with teens but with adults too,” she said. “Texting and driving is huge. My hope is that not only the kids here will be impacted today, but they will take that home and impact their families and friends and make a change to safer driving awareness everywhere and create safer roads for everyone.”
The International Save A Life Tour Manager C. J. Rich, out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, presented a Safe Driving Awareness Program, beginning with a thought provoking video. The video presented personal stories and real video clips of lives lost and forever damaged due to distracted and or impaired driving. The event then allowed each student to participate in the driver’s seat of two Distracted and Impaired Safe Driving Awareness simulators, that give them a realistic perspective on the affects of driving while intoxicated or distracted. One simulator depicts driving while texting, where students have to read and answer each text. The other simulates driving under the influence, having the driver experience delayed reactions.
“It is very hard to associate a person who killed someone distracted and driving, and put them in a place like a prison or jail with people who tried to kill other people,” Rich said. “When you wake up that morning and drive with that choice, you don’t intend to kill someone. It is so important to focus on the road in front of you.”
Rich also pointed out the importance of wearing a seat belt. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 21,022 passenger vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014. More than half of teens, aged 13-19, and adults, aged 20-44, years, who died in crashes, were unrestrained at the time of the crash.
“Please use it,” Rich said. “You are 30 times more likely to die in a car crash without wearing your seat belt.”
Versailles Senior student Lauren Heitkamp had some comments to make about the presentation and the Distracted Safe Driving Awareness simulator.
“I just had a demonstration of what happens when you text and drive and it was very scary,” she said. “I was trying to respond to some of the questions and answering them, while looking at them and trying to watch the road at the same time. I was swerving – it was very scary. I think we all fall into that distraction when we get a text message.
“It is important for the school to have this, as we need that little reminder to put us in the right direction,” Heitkamp added. “People should think before they act. I’m definitely going to encourage others to make a good choice to think twice before making a bad decision. The video was really scary, especially seeing what happens when people crash. People can die from this.”
Versailles High School Principal Roger McEldowney thought the presentation was an important and timely reminder to the students.
“Hopefully it hits home,” he said.