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Lamphere High takes pledge against distracted driving

SADD Club promotes contest among student body

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 7, 2015

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Traffic crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths, and in nearly 6 out of 10 incidents, driver distraction was involved, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The two most common distractions causing teen driver crashes are interacting with passengers and using a cellphone. Just one teen passenger doubles the risk that a teen driver will get into a fatal crash, while three or more quadruples the risk.

It doesn’t take much to be distracted, either. You can travel the length of a football field or veer off into another lane in the short amount of time it takes to fire off a text. Talking on the phone can also be distracting since it takes your mind off the road. Listening to loud music can have the same effect, and trying to change music while driving is especially dangerous.

The Lamphere High SADD (Students Against Destructive Driving) Club has been promoting these messages and trying to reinforce them for homecoming. The school is participating in the Distraction-Free Detroit campaign, which features a contest from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12.

Students in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne county high schools can visit michigan.gov/teendriver and take a pledge against distracted driving. Parents, school faculty, staff and supporters can also go to the site and take a quiz. Completing the pledge or quiz will earn a point for their high school.

For competitive purposes, the schools are divided into four enrollment-based classifications — A, B, C and D, the same ones used by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. The school in each category with the highest percentage of participation — calculated by adding up the pledges and quizzes for each school, divided by its population — will be awarded $2,500 for student activities.

Jackie Gilmore, a teacher at Lamphere High and sponsor of the SADD Club, said her students are always thinking about ways to address issues like distracted driving. They’ll be setting up laptops in the cafeteria during lunch hours and encouraging students to log in and take the pledge. They’ll even be handing out gifts like water bottles and bracelets to make the learning experience fun.

“During homecoming, kids are driving with their friends, going to games and dances and other events, and I think it’s important to just pound this information into their heads, repeating it, telling them how we’re concerned. I know sometimes they’ll say they’ve heard it before, but we can’t stop with the message, which is don’t drive distracted at all, whether it’s your phone, texting, music, changing the music, talking to other kids in the car — whatever,” Gilmore said.

“Any little thing can distract someone, young drivers especially, which is why we keep this in the forefront of their minds,” she said. “We want this to be in their head so that when the time comes, they’ll say no, we can’t be distracted.”

The contest winners will be announced during National Teen Driver Safety Week in late October. The contest, which also goes by the name “Distraction-Free in the D,” is done in partnership between the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office and the Sam Bernstein Law Firm, and is made possible without the use of taxpayer money.

Mark Bernstein, president and managing partner of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm, said in an email that there is increasing evidence about the role that distracted driving plays in crashes.

“In the old days, we would see the evidence — skid marks — on the road, indicating that someone at least tried to stop before an impact occurred. Now we’re seeing accidents where there is no indication the driver … was aware in any way he or she was about to hit another driver or pedestrian. And it’s something we need to raise awareness about,” Bernstein said.

“Our family wanted to do something to help keep families across metro Detroit safe, and this issue is personal to us because we see the results of these accidents every day at our law firm, almost every single day,” he said. “It’s our goal to reduce that type of activity to make driving safer for everybody. We thought there would be no better way than to ask new drivers to pledge to keep their eyes on the road and focus on safety.”

To take the quiz and pledge against distracted driving, visit michigan.gov/teendriver.

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