Safety First

Local agencies visit Youngsville Wednesday as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week

A crashed car bears the pledges of Youngsville High School students who’ve promised not to drive under the influenced, aggressively, or while distracted.

Driving in Pennsylvania is a privilege, not a right.

That’s what PennDOT, the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, Youngsville Police, and the Northwest Regional Highway Safety Network (NRHSN) hoped to teach Youngsville High School students Wednesday afternoon.

National Teen Driver Safety Week, established in 2007, is observed this year between Oct. 15 and 21. That’s why, said Geoffrey Crankshaw, project coordinator for the NRHSN said programs have been presented in one high school each day of this week.

With the help of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Youngsville High School administration, the program was an opportunity for students to learn about impaired and distracted driving, and what kinds of consequences they can face if they make bad decisions behind the wheel.

The impaired and distracted driving simulation gave students an opportunity to see just what sorts of deficits texting while driving or driving under the influence can create, and how quickly things can go bad. Students also had an opportunity to write personal pledges of how they intend to stay safe behind the wheel on the body of a crashed car.

The car, donated by Tim Koebley, said Crankshaw, delivers a strong visual message about what’s possible while driving impaired or distracted.

According to PennDOT, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 24-year-olds, and last year Pennsylvania had 424,198 registered drivers between the ages of 16 to 19. Of those, 17,530 were involved in crashes last year.

“Of particular concern,” said a PennDOT press release, “is the spike in the number of Pennsylvania crashes involving distracted drivers of all ages.” From 2014 through 2016, crashes involving at least one distracted driver rose by 14.5 percent. In 2016, 16,056 crashes in Pennsylvania were because of driver distraction.

The focus of National Teen Driver Safety Week, said PennDOT, is to raise awareness of the issue and to remind teens that driving is not a privilege to be taken seriously by providing visual and experiential reinforcement as well as education about what can happen when they drive distracted or impaired.