All have signed pledge forms making the vehicles they drive No Phone Zones. Some even recently participated in a distracted driving course on a Saturday in the school parking lot compliments of a Toyota Driving Expectations grant that taught defensive driving skills.
Right about now, some of our newspaper’s readers — perhaps those with a penchant for taking safety for granted — are rolling their eyes in hohum fashion without giving due credence to the thought behind the process.
We caution against such response. Instead, we refer all to the Sept. 26 and Sept. 30 editions of the Cleveland Daily Banner in which Staff Writer Delaney Walker adeptly wrote of activities taking place at Blue Raider High and how a Criminal Justice I class taught by Cheri Morgan is leading the charge.
Early in an interview with our reporter, Morgan wasted no time putting a fine point on an epidemic that took the lives of 6,000 teenagers nationwide in 2008.
“How many of us are guilty of talking and texting [in cars] and being distracted?” she asked. “If you are texting, then it is eight times more dangerous than drinking and driving.”
The latter point bears repeating.
“If you are texting, then it is eight times more dangerous than drinking and driving.”
Certainly, it is a message for teen drivers, but its alarming content lends sobering reminders to us all — young, middle-aged, old and all the groups in between.
The Cleveland High instructor continued, “If you are talking on the phone, then you are four times more likely to have a wreck than if you are not.”
Based on the above warning, consider this scenario. The last three times you have driven a vehicle, while also talking on a cellphone, you have escaped the inevitable accident — whether a minor fender-bender where no one is hurt, or a horrifying collision involving serious injury or worse. And now you climb in behind the steering wheel again and place the cellphone — which is turned on — in the passenger seat beside you.
You turn the ignition, back out the driveway and begin another voyage ... your fourth trip. The cellphone rings. What happens next is up to you. And only you.
Obviously the aforementioned phrase “four times more likely to have a wreck” is merely an average. Chances are you will arrive at your destination, while risking one or more cellphone conversations along the way, without incident. It doesn’t have to be your fourth trip nor your fifth nor a sixth. It is a law of average. And with added frequency of cellphone use while driving, your risk builds upon itself. And so does the risk to passengers and other motorists.
Sadly enough, we in the newspaper business can point to any number of vehicular crashes involving teen drivers where cellphone use was thought to be a contributing factor. The same happens to young adults and to older motorists — whether the drivers are excited students or successful businessmen and women who feel they have safely grasped the art of multitasking, even when it involves a steering wheel.
Safety is more than making wise decisions.
Safety is a mindset, one that grows exponentially the earlier its seed is planted.
Programs such as these offered at Cleveland High School, and that are made possible by the dedicated efforts of educators like Cheri Morgan, Erin Hattabaugh and many others just like them, should be encouraged. This one, offered through Toyota and Discovery Education, is a unique partnership that allows education to reach far beyond the realm of academics.
Long live the textbook.
But longer live our students!