San Diego Police Department equated driving while distracted to drunken driving.
may 28, 2008 16:00 p.m.
Some high school students lined their cars single file in the empty San Diego Sports Arena parking lot. One by one, each pulled up to a makeshift starting line, ready for the signal to hit the gas and speed straight for the orange cones set about 50 meters away.
Before they headed out on the course individually, students were asked questions to occupy their minds as they completed the course. They were offered potato chips to eat along the way and bottled water as another means of distraction. The driving instructor even allowed them to send text messages on cell phones all while they tried to keep an eye on the road ahead.
The students came out of the exercise in “distracted driving” having learned an important lesson. “Distractions at high speed equals death,” said senior Morgan Porter.
This time of year, students sometimes throw caution to the wind amid graduation angst, prom anticipation and end-of-an-era life changes as they ready themselves for summer frolic and then the working world and college.
Point Loma High School graduation is set for Friday, June 16, while High Tech High holds commencement June 21.
Safety officials say that in a world of hypercommunication, it’s common to see people chatting on the cell phone or, worse, text messaging while driving. They say this behavior adds up to an insurmountable driving distraction that can cause vehicle accidents — sometimes fatal.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, automobile accidents are the No. 1 killer of teens in the nation.
That’s one reason Allstate Insurance Co. hosted the nationwide crash-course program about the hazards of distracted driving for teens on Tuesday, May 20.
During the exercise, students weaved through cones, avoided make-believe mothers running after children in the street and fielded distracting questions involving mental math and giving directions.
San Diego Police Department Officer Mark McCullough supervised the exercise and equated driving while distracted to drunken driving.
“We see the same effect when you’re drunk,” he said. “You’re slower to react. You may brake harder … and when you’re text messaging or talking on the cell phone, same thing.”