Local teens laugh as they learn the dangers of drunk/distracted driving | VailDaily.com

Local teens laugh as they learn the dangers of drunk/distracted driving

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

But c'mon, how often does someone encourage you to strap on a pair of actual beer goggles and saddle up behind a set of handlebars?

If you were at the second Drivers Safety Awareness Day, then you got to do just that.

OK, they were tricycle handlebars, but the principle is the same.

More than 650 local high school students crashed tricycles and ran down pylons while looking through beer goggles, and got a safe and sobering look at the consequences of distracted and drunk driving.

"We do it around the prom and end of school year season. That's the time when youth are more likely to engage in impaired and distracted driving," said Mikayla Curtis with the Eagle River Youth Coalition.

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Traffic crashes kill the most

Traffic crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for people age 13-18. While there was lots of giggling and laughing, the message was serious — to drive home the angers of distracted driving, among other things.

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

And they had fun, because no one has ever paid much attention to nagging finger-waggers.

So kids went from one fun station to another, and were entered in a raffle for everything they did.

If you're Kim Greene with the Eagle County Safety Coalition and the Vail Valley Medical Center, then that's thousands of 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 a few blocks up the street before they ran over or hit something or someone.

When they crashed, they were done. When a cop pulled them over, they were done. The best, though, was when the simulator grew exasperated and kicked them out of the program.

To be fair, the deck was stacked against the kids. The simulator was singing something of a siren's song, encouraging them to make phone calls and answer texts, and one quick peek at the phone couldn't hurt, could it?

Bad idea.

If you did, you're gonna crash. If you don't you might crash anyway.

"No one got through it without crashing. Either that or the simulator kicked them out because they were driving so badly," said Tara van Dernoot, one of the event coordinators. "I was shocked at how many kids reached for their phones."

A good idea is painting their thumbnails red to remind them not to be a distracted driver.

That brings us back to beer goggles, which 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.

Dep. Megan Heil is Battle Mountain's school resource officer from the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. She sees these kids all the time, and they're much more interesting when they're alive, thank you very much.

Toward that end, she put together an obstacle course in the parking lot, and kids drove tiny cars around while dealing with all kinds of obstacles and distractions.

The results were, well … sobering.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

What’s Distracted Driving?

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:

Texting

Using a cell phone or smartphone

Eating and drinking

Talking to passengers

Grooming

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.

More than you think

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

Triple your trouble

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 to live

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

Headsets aren’t safe either

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

Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Texting teens

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

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

How unsafe are they?

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