Vail Valley kids: Driving has consequences |

Vail Valley kids: Driving has consequences

Lauren Glendenning
Edwards, CO Colorado
NWS safe driving 1 KA 05-15-09

EDWARDS, Colorado ” Mack Cooper saw on his iPhone that he had a friend request on Facebook ” he took both hands off the wheel to see who it was.

Cooper, an eighth-grader at The Vail Academy, was luckily just driving Mario Kart on the Nintendo Wii video game system. Had Mack been driving a real car, he would have been in trouble, said Kim Greene, who heads up the ThinkFirst, a brain and spinal cord injury education program at the Vail Valley Medical Center.

Greene was at Vail Christian High School Friday for the school’s safe driving exposition. The school won a national grant from the National Youth Traffic Safety Council ” one of 20 schools in the country to win the grant ” to host the expo and teach the public about the dangers of driving.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol set up various obstacles in the school parking lot to show teenagers and the public about distractions while driving, including drunk driving. Greene, who did a similar demonstration at Battle Mountain High School about a week ago, hopes to get more of the programs together for schools throughout the valley.

From wearing a pair of drunk goggles that blur vision and simulate dizziness to driving a Go-Kart that had delayed reactions, students got a valuable lesson in driving.

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Caroline Carlson, 16, just got her license a week ago. The Vail Christian High School junior tried the special Go-Kart, known as simulated impaired driving experience, and got a feel for what it would be like to drive drunk ” something she vows she’ll never do.

“You turn the wheel and it doesn’t turn for several seconds after,” she said. “Everything was delayed.”

Caroline said she’s being a careful driver so far ” she puts a CD in the stereo before she takes off so she doesn’t have to fumble around with changing the channels and she doesn’t use her cell phone while driving.

“I’ll answer the phone at a stop light or stop sign,” she said.

Devan Christie, also a junior at Vail Christian, said he doesn’t use his phone in the car either. He’ll keep it on the passenger seat and put the phone on its silent mode so he’s not tempted to answer it when it rings. He said he’s never traveling very far, so the calls can wait.

“I think I do pretty well,” he said.

While students might know the dangers of various distractions in the car ” from cell phones to food to other passengers ” Greene could tell right away that many kids don’t always use their heads.

Greene led students through a game of Mario Kart. She had them sit as if they were in a car and sent them text messages as they drove.

“Some are really good (at texting while driving), which is really scary,” she said. “It shows me that they do it all the time. They all end up crashing, though.”

The lesson is important for the entire community, she said ” adults have many of the same distractions behind the wheel, although teenagers have the added danger of being inexperienced drivers.

Some parents try to protect their children by setting some rules for the car, realizing the rules can be hard to follow sometimes.

Debra Geddes has two children, one with a license and the other with a learner’s permit, and she tells them phones are not allowed in the car. She’ll call them just to test them sometimes and when they answer she tells them to hang up. She was at the exposition with her children so they could learn a few things.

“It’s such a vulnerable and crucial age,” she said. “The more information they have, the better informed decisions they can make.”

Caroline’s parents haven’t set any specific rules for her while driving, but she pays attention to what’s around her and thinks she knows how to avoid driving distractions.

“I use my own common sense,” she said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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