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Driving the point home

Officials, fire department say message getting through to students

Julia Halburion, a junior at Colonie Central High School, learns how hard it is to drive while sending a text message on her phone. This was part of Ford’s Driving Skills For Life Program at Colonie Central High School on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Julia Halburion, a junior at Colonie Central High School, learns how hard it is to drive while sending a text message on her phone. This was part of Ford’s Driving Skills For Life Program at Colonie Central High School on Thursday, Oct. 13. Photo by Andrew Beam.

— The dangers of drunk driving and texting while driving have been made clear, but Ford and Colonie Central High School recently attempted to drive that point home by allowing students to actually participate in both.

Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program took over the high school’s parking lot on Thursday, Oct. 13, to set up three different driving courses for students. The courses were meant to teach them what happens when they either drive (with drunk goggles on), text while driving or go into a skid.

“The biggest reason why we do Driving Skills for Life was is it give you the feel of the car and what they can do and what they can’t do,” said Mark Speck, lead facilitator for DSFL. “We also do the driving simply because it’s fun.”

Speck said the goal is not to completely change the way many of the students drive, but to introduce them to the dangers of distracted driving. Some forms of distracted driving take away three cognitive functions. It can involve taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the steering wheel and not allowing your brain to completely focus on the task at hand.

Chuck Deweese, assistant commissioner for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s traffic safety committee, said this type of program could have been held at any school. Automobile accidents are the leading cause of teenager deaths, he said.

“They are just learning to drive and we want to teach the right way how to handle a skid and basically just the dangers,” he said, pointing towards the cones. “These are just cones. You can kill a cone. In real life, you’re going to kill a human and the cost of living with that for the rest of your life is going to be with you.”

It is possible to text and drive, Deweese said, but it isn’t possible to drive at a normal speed while texting at the same time. As he discussed this, one of the students driving through the course was moving at a snail’s pace as they tried to drive through the obstacle course.

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