Friday Night Live puts on distracted driving presentation

140 pairs of sneakers and sandal clad feet shuffle forward in a jumbled line as they walk into the Gil Asa gym at the start of first period, stopping twice to grab 3D glasses and a clunky remote, and then to continue filing into chairs lined up in front of a movie theater screen. The excited chatter of voices echoes around the gym while PE teacher Kathy Smith directs the traffic so the much anticipated presentation organized by Friday Night Live can start.

FNL is partnering with Teens in the Driver’s Seat, a peer-to-peer driving safety program for youth, to bring a traffic safety presentation to Paso Robles High School. The program, CinemaDrive, is an interactive 3D movie that stimulates different driving situations that teenagers might be involved in while on the road.

Over the course of 80 minutes, students watched the fatal consequences of speeding, peer pressure, drinking and driving, texting and driving, and fatigue while driving. The presentation used 3D technology, surround sound, laser lights, and interactive remotes. A total of about 420 students from first, third, and fifth period PE classes participated in the presentation.

“I thought it was really cool, and it showed us a lot of things [and] reality that you wouldn’t really pay attention to otherwise” freshmen Delilah Judy said after the presentation, “I feel like everybody probably benefited from it.”

“Friday Night Live is an amazing organization that promotes a happy and healthy lifestyle. We try our hardest to keep our fellow peers safe so they can prosper in life,” said junior Gabby Hamamoto, a member of FNL since joining the club in seventh grade at Lillian Larsen. Hamamoto also echoes the ideas presented in the traffic presentation of always having a designated driver and taking responsibility of drinking and driving. “…no one wants to be the cause of someone’s death for a choice they will never be able to take back,” Hamamoto said.

As of 2013, in the United States over 424,000 people were injured and 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, and over 660,000 drivers use cell phones while driving, according to distraction.gov. 8,606 of teenagers between the ages of 16-17 talk on a phone while driving, according to onlineschools.com. But is checking phones at stoplights okay? That’s not safe either; it is illegal to check email or read text messages while at a red light or in backed up traffic, according to the California Highway Patrol. Checking phones while on the road is not the only fatal distraction; speeding is also a major factor of crashes. The risk of crashing increases with every mile over the speed limit.

“I think it’s really important to drive the speed limit. They’re made for a reason,” senior Blair Orlando said, who was involved in two separate car crashes dealing with speeding. On July 31, 2011, Orlando was in the backseat of the car driven by her sister and a friend. The car was speeding and flipped three to four times, resulting in a concussion for Orlando. She was airlifted to Sierra Vista with the possibility of brain damage, but was deemed healthy, as were the two other persons in the vehicle. Orlando was also involved in a fender bender accident several months ago in front of the high school when a vehicle speeding through a yellow light almost hit her car, causing Orlando to hit the bumper of the truck in front of her.

Security guard Carol Keating sees distracted drivers about 10 or more times a day, mainly parents on cell phones when coming to pick up their students.  “I know how easily you can be distracted, even by a noise.” Keating said. “You can get distracted by anything, maybe something going on… and you’re thinking about that while driving. Maybe something blowing across the street while you’re driving can distract you from what’s in front of you. I do notice distracted driving.”
Friday Night Live also educates students about preventing distracted driving year round. The day before winter break, on Dec. 18, FNL passed out free Candy Grams with sweet and simple messages, such as “Safe and Sober!”, all dealing with peer pressure and safe driving over the winter break. They also have tables at different lunch events with Fatal Vision goggles, which mimic the effects of alcohol, according to fatalvision.com. Friday Night Live also went to different classrooms on May 26 to present a slideshow about the dangers of distracted driving.

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Sadie Mae was born into a military family and has moved eight times in ten year between Washington,Texas, Hawai’i, Germany, and California. She is a dancer, pianist, and animal rights advocate who has volunteered at the Charles Paddock Zoo for the past three years.

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