FAIRBORN — The task was simple — Fairborn High School students were assigned to drive around a closed course three times under varying circumstances.
The first ride around the course was to be driven normally, keeping up speed and listening to the orders of a driving instructor, who had his own brake to press just in case, on the passenger’s side of the vehicle. The second time around wasn’t as easy — text a friend and ask about plans for that evening; the third, take a “selfie” and scroll through social media. Oh, and keep the speed up to 25 miles per hour and don’t hit the cones lining the course.
The point was to teach students about the dangers of distracted driving.
“How quickly it can go from a good situation to a bad situation,” Driving Instructor Pat Brown said when asked what he hopes the young drivers take away from the experience. “When you’re in the middle of the lane and all the sudden you’re hitting cones — those cones could be parked cars, kids riding bikes — so they get the idea that this isn’t the safest thing to be doing, texting and driving.”
Brown served as the only instructor during the distracted driving event, saying that he observed the teen drivers neither driving safely or texting coherently when attempting to engage in both activities at the same time. School Resource Officer Jim Hern of the Fairborn Police Department said he observed during the event that students attempting to text and drive on the course would forget instructions given by Brown.
According to the AAA Foundation, almost 60 percent of teen crashes include distractions behind the wheel. The research also finds that texting and social media use behind the wheel are on the rise, worsening the issue. The foundation also found that more than 5,000 individuals have been killed in car accidents over the last five years during what is known as the “100 Deadliest Days” — which begin Memorial Day and spans across the summer season until Labor Day. An average of 1,022 individuals die annually during that time period, with drivers between 16-19 years old experiencing a 16 percent increase per day in traffic accident deaths compared to the remainder of the year, according to the foundation.
The foundation also found that talking or paying attention to other passengers account for 15 percent of crashes; talking, texting or being on a cell phone account for 12 percent of crashes and diverting attention to looking at something else inside the vehicle accounts for 11 percent of crashes. Texting and driving, according to AAA, is a “triple threat” because it involves all three of those crash-causing factors.
“It’s one more thing out there to keep the kids safe and thinking about [the dangers of distracted driving],” Hern said. ” … Just looking down at your phone, sending a text or answering a text — taking your eyes off the road for that split second can cause you to hit something.”
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.