PHHS students cautioned about dangers of drinking, texting while driving

May 3—PENDLETON — Choices come with consequences.

Faculty members and officials with an internationally known safe driving awareness program sought to drive that message home to students at Pendleton Heights High School this week with presentations and interactive demonstrations.

In the midst of prom season, district officials arranged for the International Save A Life Tour to visit the high school. The intent was to demonstrate hypothetical consequences from two poor choices made by teens either before or while driving: drinking and texting.

"Kids are very attached to their cellphones nowadays," said Ryan Jones, dean of students at Pendleton Heights High School. "We just want to sure they make smart choices while driving and understand all the repercussions."

The demonstrations included two hands-on virtual reality driving experiences — one in which a simulator was programmed to replicate the slower reflexes of an impaired person, and the other challenging students to reply to text messages while driving in rainy conditions.

Having students — mostly seniors anticipating the school's upcoming prom and graduation ceremony — test both devices, officials said, was designed to remind them of the prevalence of distractions when they're behind the wheel.

"Nowadays, a lot of teens — and people in general — are on their phones and driving, which isn't safe," said Titus Koso, an instructor with the Save A Life Tour. "We're just here to bring awareness to distracted driving so that we can help our roads be better and safer for everybody."

Koso said the urgency of communicating the importance of sound decision making is particularly heightened during prom and graduation season. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one-third of all alcohol-related fatalities involving teens annually happen in the months of April, May and June. Statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving indicate that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers.

"With parties and things after prom and stuff, it's about just trying to make sure people understand what they're doing and be safe," said Andrew Evans, a PHHS senior.

The activities at the high school also included a presentation from the Indiana Motor Truck Association, which sponsored the event. Professional drivers allowed students to sit in driver's seat of a tractor-trailer so they could see the vehicle's blind spots — a key consideration, they said, when sharing the road with them.

"The biggest thing we want our teens to understand is the blind spots on trucks, how long it takes a truck to stop, not cutting in front of a truck on the right-hand side, giving them room," said Jennifer Piatt, vice president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association. "Drunk driving, texting and driving, their consequences can be deadly. At the end of the day, it's not worth it."

Jones said the interactive demonstrations were supplemented by classroom discussions and documentary viewings. He said the implications of a poor decision — be it on prom night or any other occasion — can last for a lifetime.

"There are people who rely on these kids, and they've got so much in front of them," he said. "When you're young, it's easy to think you're invincible. There are a lot of good things happening for a lot of our students, and we just want to make sure they understand the repercussions of bad choices. It can all change in an instant."

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