Battle Mountain students learn lessons about distracted driving |

Battle Mountain students learn lessons about distracted driving

The Eagle Valley Youth Coalition's Kathrina Guillen crashes her simulated car during a distracted driving exercise during a safety day at Battle Mountain High School. With her are Samantha Gayle, left and Wendy Carrasco.
Randy Wyrick/Vail Daily |

Distracted driving by the numbers

Three main types of driving distractions

Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel

Visual: Taking your eyes off the road

Cognitive: Taking your mind off driving

Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:


Using a cell phone or smartphone

Eating and drinking

Talking to passengers


Reading, including maps

Using a navigation system

Watching a video

Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

But, because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. (NOPUS)

Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. (VTTI)

Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. (2009, VTTI)

Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)

Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving. (UMTRI)

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

Cell phone use was reported in 18 percent of distracted-related fatalities in America

Texting takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds

The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, this was a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011.

10% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.

Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

EDWARDS — You can’t see the world clearly through beer goggles, and if you’re texting and driving you can’t see the world at all.

Those two facts of life were among the lessons driven home to Battle Mountain High School about distracted and drunk driving.

Hundreds of students strapped on beer goggles, did a roadside sobriety test, and drove a simulator to drive home the dangers of distracted driving, among other things.

Yes, they learned about distracted and drunk driving, but they also learned some life lessons.

“When you’re under the influence, everything becomes unstable and distorted,” said sophomore Bryan Saenz.

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Citing another lesson, junior Stephanie Rivera said, “It’s scary. You can’t keep anything in balance.”

It was fun, because no one has ever paid much attention to some finger-wagging lecturing that this behavior or that behavior is a bad idea.

Students went from one fun station to another, and were entered in a raffle for some of the 88 prizes and eight grand prizes. The students handed in 2,000 raffle tickets.

If you’re Kim Greene with the Eagle County Safety Coalition and the Vail Valley Medical Center, then that’s 2,000 lessons learned.

“It’s about safety and prevention and bringing some safety education that will help them make safe choices,” Greene said.

Masters of distraction

In the driving simulator, most kids got about six blocks up the street before they were either pulled over by a police officer or had a wreck. Two or three stop signs into the simulation, after you’ve run over a cat and sent a text, a red minivan pulls out and pounds you in the passenger side, if you’re not paying attention, and you aren’t.

A helicopter flies in and hauls your passenger to a hospital where he’s listed in extremely stupid condition.

That’s because at about the second stop sign, right after you ran over the cat, he told you his seat belt was uncomfortable and took it off. He said in a whiny tone of voice, so you let him because you were tired of listening to him complain.

Bad idea.

Then they wander over to Distract-a-Match where they put on headphones and their tender young ears are assaulted with the sounds of tires screaming, children crying and all sorts of other stuff designed to distract your attention from the task at hand. You have to think because you can’t duplicate colors, and it’s tough to think because of this loud racket in your ears.

Most normal people are much slower with the headphones in their ears. A few kids, though, were faster the more distractions they had.

Wearing Beer Goggles

The best, though, was beer goggles, and they were nothing like the country song. Kids strapped on safety goggles that fogged their vision, not unlike being unable to focus when you have a snoot full.

They tried to take nine steps, heel to toe, like they would during a roadside sobriety test.

Commander Daric Harvey, Jessica Mayes and Kurt Mulson with the Vail Police Department, among others, were helping kids through it.

“It’s a good battery of tests to see how they’d perform under standard roadside conditions,” said Deputy Megan Richards, of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

She looked around the room as teenagers talked and laughed, crashed virtual cars and stumbled over straight lines.

“After going through these, hopefully they’ll make a different choice about drinking and distracted driving,” Richards said

It’s all about safety, said Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy. Deputies are seeing more issues with distracted driving, he said. Cell phones are a more prevalent problem.

Hoy asked groups of students, “How many of you have your driver’s license?” Several raised their hands.

When he asked, “How many have cell phones in the car?” they shrink back a little.

“They don’t just see it with kids. Even adults who have a phone in the car feel like they need to answer it right away. There’s almost no circumstance when that’s true,” Hoy said. “If you do have to take it, pull over, turn your flashers on and have your conversation.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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