Students participate in teen driving safety event

Published 6:25 pm Saturday, October 14, 2017

Students from more than 15 high schools across the state made their way to Wallace Community College recently to participate in a Teen Driver Safety event.

Children’s of Alabama, State Farm, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Department of Transportation, Drive Safe Alabama, the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, Safe Kids Alabama, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Alabama Sports Festival Foundation came together to put the event on.

The students first heard from keynote speaker Mike Lutzenkirchen who shared a message of good character and decision making.

Lutzenkirchen is executive director of the Lutzie 43 Foundation, an organization he established in honor of his son Philip, a former Auburn University football player, who was a passenger in a fatal car crash in which alcohol played a role.

They were then split up into groups with other high schools to learn about various topics that involve driving.

“We have these great partners that State Farm works with and we all have the common goal of keeping our teens and our young people safe on the road and sharing that message with them,” said Emily Clark, who works for the public affairs department of State Farm Insurance and helped organize the event. “The distractions out there today are so much more than they were even when I learned to drive. So we’re letting them know to keep those two hands on the wheel and those two eyes on the road because it’s so important.”

The students got to participate in hands on activities, like wearing drunk goggles and trying to pass a sobriety test, catch a ball while wearing the goggles, play a video game while distracted and even get behind the wheel of a parked car and trying to control the vehicle while wearing simulator glasses.

“With young people, you’ve got to keep it interactive, so we try to keep it interactive, but we also do have some more serious breakout sessions like your trauma room or your Mothers Against Drunk Driving where they’re talking about not drunk driving,” Clark said. “We’re trying different methods because every student learns different, but we do want it to be fun and interactive so they understand why it’s important.”

Amber Turner, a senior at Sumter Central High School in York, said she found the lessons valuable and plans to never drink and drive, or text while driving.

“I learned that your vision is really affected when you’re drunk driving,” Turner said. “It’s really, really hard to see and most accidents happen when you first get your driver’s license, so you have to be really careful.”

Allison Green, marketing and communication specialist and Drive Safe Alabama coordinator for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said the activities and the lessons that the students take away from the event are saving lives.

“Today is all about taking these new drivers that we have out on the road and sharing with them the important ways they can stay safe on the roads. From an ALDOT perspective, what we know from looking at all the crash stats in Alabama, is that safe roads start with safe drivers,” Green said.

“If we can get to these new drivers before they form bad habits and give them good information, hopefully they’ll form good driving behavior habits that will get them started on the right track and will reduce the number of fatalities on our roads in Alabama.”