If community members and students truly want to arrive alive, they are encouraged not to drive distracted behind the wheel.
This was the message of the “Arrive Alive: Don't Text and Drive” rally held Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, at Borger High School. The rally was organized by sophomore class officers J.T. Conner, Lane Myers, Callie Galloway, Christian Marr, and Britany Rodriguez.
Featured speaker for the event was Department of Public Safety Trooper Darrin Bridges. He said there are tragedies that occur daily as a result of distracted driving.
He said distracted driving impairs a driver's abilities behind the wheel, and cell phone usage is the primary form of distracted driving. Bridges said he wishes he could take people to crash scenes so they could see what he has to deal with in his line of work.
“We are not emotionless. I've got emotions, but you've got to control them at the crime scene,” he said.
He said he has the best job in the world and enjoys being able to get drug dealers off the streets and the roads, but dealing with car crashes and people's lives is something he dreads.
“The worst part of my job is dealing with these crashes that didn't have to happen,” Bridges said.
He said nearly 6,000 teens die in car crashes across the United States. Of the 3,448 fatal crashes that occurred last year in Texas, distracted driving is third on the list of causes. A driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash if he or she is texting behind the wheel.
Bridges said that 80 percent of crashes involve distracted driving and 65 percent of near crashes involve distracted driving. He said distracted driving has affected all drivers at some point and time.
Primary causes of distracted driving are cell phone use and drowsiness. He also said changing the radio and goofing off with one's friends can cause distractions as well.
“Basically you're asking yourself, 'What can I do while I'm driving? I want to do something,'” he said. “I'll give you an idea of what you can do. You can drive and concentrate on what's ahead of you.”
The most common form of distracted driving is cell phone use, he said. Cell phone impairs a person's cognitive abilities behind the wheel by 37 percent. He also said dialing, talking, and listening can impair a person behind the wheel, because he or she is taking their eyes away from the road.
A person who is texting while driving has the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.08, Bridges said. He said he has worked crashes where both texting and intoxication have been involved, and he said those two things do not mix, and one or the other on its own is bad enough.
“Texting while driving is on the rise,” he said.
Right now, in 39 of 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have banned cell phone use for all drivers. Bridges said it is only a matter of time before it becomes law in Texas.
In the state of Texas, a person under 18 years of age cannot operate a vehicle while using a wireless communication device, except in the case of an emergency.
“Calling your mother or father to tell them you're going to be 10 minutes late is not an emergency,” he said. He encouraged teens to pull off the road to call or text such things to their family.
Emergency calls include emergency response service, the fire department, hospital, a doctor's office, or a police department.
Drivers are also not allowed to operate wireless communication devices in school zones, and school bus drivers cannot use cell phones in school buses with minor passengers.
Along with a video involving a truck driver barely getting away with his life, Bridges showed pictures of several crashes that have occurred right here in this area as a result of texting and driving. He also showed the crowd a car seat involved in a crash. The car seat was actually ripped out of the base due to the blunt impact of the wreck.
“There are things I've seen that would make you sick to your stomach,” he said. “Those things are embedded in my mind. I can't tell you how important it is to keep your focus on the road while driving.”
Along with the presentation by Bridges, a drama presentation was put on by BHS students Sam Crittenden, Kendra Miller, Devin Thouvenel, and Josie Hazard highlighting different situations where texting and driving can affect people's lives. A video from AT&T was also shown to the crowd and documented people who have been affected by distracted driving crashes.
Conner, who is the president of the sophomore class, encouraged the students and community members to sign pledge cards to not drive distracted behind the wheel.
As students left the auditorium, they got to witness a simulated crash scene of young people appearing to be involved in a texting while driving crash. Also taking part in the scene were emergency officials, Justice of the Peace Shila Hart, and parents of the students involved.