Saving lives through knowledge and experience

Mrs. Sollie experiences what it feels like to drive impaired. One of the activities of “Celebrate My Drive” held at Leesville was to drive a golf cart with vision-impaired goggles on.
Mrs. Sollie experiences what it feels like to drive impaired. One of the activities of “Celebrate My Drive” held at Leesville was to drive a golf cart with vision-impaired goggles on.

State Farm hosted a “Celebrate My Drive” event at Leesville Road High School on September 15. The event allowed students to experience driving in several different situations that can lead to deadly car accidents.

“Celebrate My Drive is important because it’s a time to acknowledge and stress the importance of teen safe driving and praise those who are careful behind the wheel,” said Mike Sollie, a State Farm agent who arranged the event, in an e-mail.

Unfortunately, all drivers of all ages can be distracted while they drive, and the worst part about it is that they think nothing can happen to them.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of deaths among 13-19 year olds in 2007. In 2009, 3,466 teenagers between the ages 13 and 19 died in car crashes. In 2009, about 2 out of 3 teenagers killed were males.

According to Edgar Snyder and Associates Law Firm, 2,336 young drivers were killed, and over 196,000 injured in 2009. From January to June 2011, approximately 211 teenagers died in car crashes. They also recorded that 61% of young drivers admitted to “risky driving habits.”  In 2009, 18% of car accidents involving teenagers, the driver had been distracted. Teenagers, in general, were reported to not wear seat belts, drive above speeds limit and talk/text on cell phones. Car accidents rates also increased with each additional passenger.  

Because of high statistics, people organize events to educate young drivers to PREVENT these kinds of things.

“Celebrate My Drive” came to Leesville to educate students as well as parents of such mishaps and statistics. The event was mainly held in four different sections: an introductory meeting for drivers and parents, an informational meeting for parents, an informational meeting for students and several different driving courses for students.

Starting at 10 a.m., after the serious introductory meeting, students stayed in the school’s auditorium. They were informed of statistics and then participated in an active discussion about driving. Whereas parents left for the library to be informed of the insurance aspect of driving.

“Most people don’t have a clear understanding of how insurance points increase premium, so we clarify that for the teen drivers and their parent(s),” wrote Sollie.

After the informational meetings, students were able to go outside to participate in several different driving events. However, not all students who had attended had been allowed to participate in all the activities. Students must have a learner’s permit or license to drive the cars as well as a parent to sign a consent form if they were under 18.

“Celebrate My Drive” consisted of six activities in which students were able to participate and drive in hazardous situations.

“We put the participants through a series of ‘courses’ that test a person’s ability to stay focused behind the wheel to avoid distractions and that test their ability of being a good defensive and safe driver in the face of those distractions,” wrote Sollie.

The first activities were driving in a car around the bus parking lot with several other passengers. With the music blasting and passengers screaming, the driver then had to sharply turn left or right through a field of cones.

“This event creates real-life situations that many drivers face on a daily basis and that almost every driver on the road has experienced at some point in their life,” wrote Sollie. “Instead of a person having to deal with a situation that they are not prepared for while behind the wheel of a car out on the road, we put them in these situations to see how they react and we coach them on how they can improve to be a safer driver.”

Other activities included stopping extremely short on wet pavement, skidding over wet pavement and driving a golf cart through a cone maze with “beer goggles” on. With the “beer goggles” on, the students then tried to walk in a straight line. Some nearly fell to the ground within trying to walk only several feet. One machine allowed the students to feel the jolting effect of a seatbelt locking up if the car hit an object going 20 MPH.

“We combine all of this [maneuvers taught in the driving section of Driver’s Ed] and take it one step further in creating an understanding of how to deal with adverse situations and educating those involved,” wrote Sollie about the driving activities.

Once the day was over, everyone left feeling satisfied and glad they had came. “Every person I’ve talked to absolutely loved it and benefitted from it. There were a few teenagers that had prior commitments that day and they didn’t want to leave our event since they were having so much fun and learning so much,” wrote Sollie. “From the parents perspective, it was priceless since their child/children were able to have a hands-on experience stressing safe driving.”

“Overall the program was a huge hit and success and we will be hosting another event like this in the near future!” concluded Sollie in his e-mail.


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