By Jacob Allen
The Williamston Post
Each day in the United States, nine people die and 1,060 people are hurt in car accidents with distracted driving as the reported cause. These statistics are according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This issue was taken head-on during the March 16 Williamston Board of Education. The board celebrated and discussed a program called students preventing distracted driving held at Williamston High School during early March.
“Preventing distracted driving has become more and more important for building that awareness in our young drivers and even our older drivers,” said Narda Murphy, the superintendent of the Williamston School District. “Students really got to experience what it is like to be distracted while driving with the simulator and the consequences that could follow.”
Students preventing distracted driving is run by Williamston High School English teachers Lana Jaskowski and Caitlin Stansell. The program was started three years ago. This year, students preventing distracted driving began in January with a media campaign. Posters, pamphlets, essays and commercials were all written or made by students to bring awareness and end distracted driving. The program focuses on 10th grade students, who by no coincidence are around ages 15 to 16 and are about ready to start driving.
“Too many individuals are using their hand-held devices while driving and a lot of them are doing it in school zones,” said Jeffrey West, who has been the vice president of the board for two years. “Hopefully a program like this one opens the eyes of drivers out there and helps stop at least some of this activity.”
Students preventing distracted driving also brought in a state police trooper to discuss safe driving habits and winter driving safety with the students. There will be an event in May called the ride and drive safe driving event in Detroit that a group of students from Williamston High School will attend to further their safe driving education.
“Kids are young and don’t understand the consequences of their actions,” said Nancy Deal, a board member of three months. “I think these programs are important to help them realize the possible consequences of their actions and how distracted driving can hurt them and the people around them.”
In addition to the state trooper, the program brought in a driving simulator that allowed students to see firsthand how difficult it is to drive distracted. It also gave the students a glimpse of possible consequences of distracted driving.
According to Williamston High School Principal Dr. Jeffrey Thoenes, the simulator puts you in a car where you may become distracted and lose control of the vehicle. Other times the simulator allows you to drive far enough to run stoplights and knock over garbage cans. Eventually, the police pull you over and you are put through the arrest process. You are taken to jail, and after you are and seen by a judge and sentenced. Finally, the simulator ends with a job interview and an employer asking you to explain your driving record.
“I think a program like this and the simulator itself gives kids ownership of what the future might be like. It helps them understand what the behaviors they choose or could choose might end up causing,” said Thoenes. “They see the data that other people have made poor choices that have caused not only accidents but deaths and hopefully it hits home. If we save one kid through the effort it is worth it.”
In addition to the discussion and celebration of the campaign, the meeting covered high school and middle school improvement plans presented by faculty of each. The board discussed and approved a revision to the bullying policy to further prevent cyber bullying. After towards, board members reviewed and approved three items including a teacher’s request for leave, a bid from Stevens Construction for the building of a retaining wall in downtown Williamston and a bid from McDonald Roofing for the repair of the Williamston Middle School roof. The meeting adjourned around 9:10 p.m.
The next board of education meeting will take place April 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Williamston Middle School in the multi-purpose room.
For general information on the board of education click here.