Teens vow to not drive distracted

By: Elizabeth Scussel, Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 30, 2015

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METRO DETROIT — Local high schools are taking a stand against distracted driving through involvement in the “Distraction-Free Detroit — Distraction-Free in the D” campaign.

Distraction-Free Detroit — Distraction-Free in the D is a partnership between the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office and the Sam Bernstein Law Firm to raise awareness about the risks of distracted driving, and ways to prevent injuries and fatalities.

Student bodies pledging to participate include Groves, Marian, Orchard Lake, Seaholm and West Bloomfield high schools.

“These girls are passionate about getting the message to their peers about the dangers of texting and driving,” said Marian High School teacher Julie Sartori, who also serves as the moderator of the Marian Chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions.

“We have over 200 girls in our club. My officers did a presentation in early September for our group about texting and distracted driving,” she said. “This has been a great learning experience for our students, staff and faculty.”

According to Cmdr. Scott Grewe, of the Birmingham police, a majority of rear-end collisions are caused by distracted drivers.

In fact, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in nearly 6 out of 10 incidents, driver distraction was involved. According to campaign organizers, two of the most common distractions causing teen driver crashes are interacting with passengers and using a cellphone.

“If you think about it, if someone hits a car in front of them because they didn’t see them stop, it has to be because they weren’t paying attention, whether they were looking at their phone or whatever they’re distracted by,” Grewe said. “There’s the trend that younger drivers create more accidents, but distracted driving is a problem for all ages.”

As far as the Distraction-Free in the D campaign, Grewe said it’s useful to prevent distracted driving and create awareness, but a lot of learned behavior starts at home.

“A lot of (teens’ behavior) comes from parents setting a good example. My kids know when they’re in the car with me, I don’t pick up my phone — I don’t take calls, I don’t take texts. And I think they’ll remember that when it comes time for them to get behind the wheel,” he said.

Currently, Birmingham does not have any distracted driving ordinances, but officers can issue careless driving tickets at the scene of an accident to someone who was clearly not paying attention to their surroundings.

And while most teens understand that texting is dangerous while driving, surveys show most don’t believe that talking on a mobile phone while driving is dangerous, which prompted the Distraction-Free Detroit — Distraction-Free in the D campaign.

The campaign features a contest that runs Sept. 1-Oct. 12. Students at high schools in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties can visit www.michigan.gov/teendriver to take a pledge against distracted driving.

Parents, school faculty, staff and supporters can go to the same site to take a quiz. Those who complete a pledge or quiz will earn a point for their high school. Schools are divided into the four enrollment-based classifications used by the Michigan High School Athletic Association for competitive purposes.

At the end of the contest period, the school in each classification with the highest percentage of participation will be awarded $2,500 for student activities. This will be calculated by adding up the pledges and quizzes for each school, divided by its population.

The winning schools will be announced during National Teen Driver Safety Week in late October.