Students gain impact on impaired driving
MUNCY – This week has been declared Teen Driver Safety Week and Mike Klein from State Farm in Muncy decided he wanted to share some of his best resources with Muncy High School teens.
On Friday, October 18, Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania proclaimed the week of October 20-26 to coincide with this national observance. Klein contacted Principal, Tim Welliver and Jonathan Bennett who is the Driver Safety instructor as well as health and phys ed teacher at Muncy High School. “The leading cause of death for teens is motor vehicle accidents,” he told them, “And I want to help these kids learn to drive safely.” So he took financial responsibility to bring the mobile simulator to the school.
About three months ago, Klein reserved the DUI simulator which travels from school to school throughout the state and the country. “We are the only ones to have it for National Driver Safety Week.” With him came the State Farm Good Neigh-Bear, Jolinda Bischof.
Accompanied by its own driver from the Harrisburg area, the simulator is designed to go through heavy fog, rain, passing cars, speeding, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Students could use the accelerator and the brakes to determine their speed. Mike Martin from the PA DUI Association said, “Keep in mind that we take all these steps for granted. The kids always have to think about everything they do when they get into the car, from hooking seat belts to starting the car. They don’t have a license yet. We teach them their surroundings.” Using the national survey averages for teens and alcohol, Martin allowed the teens to experience what it was like to drive with one drink and on up to 10 before actually getting behind the wheel. Built by L3 Communications in Salt Lake City, Utah for the DUI Association, the real life simulation gave them experiences on what it takes in time for the amount of alcohol to do damaging effects.
Emilie Kainz, a tenth grader who is getting ready for a learner’s permit, said, “It was pretty fun, and the experience of knowing how I would drive if I was drinking. It was harder to steer and accelerate and try to focus on the road.”
“This is definitely a learner’s experience on the reaction time,” added Gage Bender, another sophomore.
Along with the simulator StateFarm has powered a campaign called ‘Celebrate My Drive’ that is programmed to help schools obtain grants toward their driver education safety curriculums.
According to Klein “Behind the Wheel Training” (a nationally registered program) can be very costly. Bennett said that a majority of the students in tenth grade take driver’s ed training but it is mostly the classroom instruction. It is an additional $100 to go behind the wheel. Muncy School District does provide that training and Juniors and Seniors are eligible. “By taking this training, kids are eligible for discounts on their insurance,” said Bennett.
On Friday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. almost 100 students got to try the DUI simulator where they were able to experience what it is really like to drive impaired.
Meanwhile, ‘The Celebrate My Drive’ event has been established for the week. “It’s a party designed to rally Muncy Jr. & Sr. High School around new drivers and keep them safe,” said Klein.
Sponsored by State Farm students are competing for a $100,000 grant for their school and it is registered on www.celebratemydrive.com. The site is programmed to commit to safe driving by telling others about it. Each day students, 14 and over, can log onto the website up until Saturday, October 26. The more commitments Muncy School receives, the better chance they get to win the grant money. Adults can visit the website also. “The community can vote to offset the costs so kids won’t have to pay so much towards ‘Behind the Wheel’ costs,” Klein added.
Helping out for the day was Sgt. James Dorman from the Muncy Police Department. “We are very fortunate to have State Farm for us to educate the kids in the community and be a driving factor,” he said. He also said that these mobile simulators are used to train police officers.