Tough lessons on distracted driving

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press Clay Martin, a representative of The International Save A Life Tour, talks about distracted driving simulators to Escanaba junior and senior high students during a distracted driving program at the school Tuesday.

ESCANABA — Students at Escanaba Junior and Senior High School learned about the dangers of distracted driving during a presentation Tuesday.

The International Save A Life Tour is a safe driving awareness program that visited the school. Clay Martin, a representative of the program, discussed the reality of what could happen to a driver and others if they chose to text and drive to the eighth through 12th graders at the school Tuesday. The tour has traveled to all 50 states and 33 countries, explained Martin.

Over the course of the presentation, students watched a documentary about first-hand accounts of people impacted by someone who was driving distracted. Stories were told from the drivers who caused the accidents and interviews with the families and friends who were impacted. Students watched silently as the stories unfolded and spoke about the realities of those who have been injured both physically and emotionally as a result of the accidents.

“Every single person that was injured in the videos was not on their phones,” said Martin, adding about one third of the people who are killed or injured in a distracted driving incident were not on cell phones.

One incident recalled a sister walking her brother across the street when a distracted driver ran a four-way stop intersection, hitting the boy as he walked. Another talked about a distracted driver traveling down a country roadway and hitting an Amish horse buggy as he sent his wife an “I love you” text on his way to work.

“Every text message will not result in a crash,” said Martin, adding the first-hand stories are important to listen to as it can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of what we may think.

Lee Ann Bink, a social worker at Escanaba Junior and Senior High School, said she hopes the students took away from the presentation that both a driver and innocent bystander involved in a distracted driving incident can experience life-altering effects.

This was the first time the International Save A Life Tour has made its way to Escanaba, noted Bink, adding she was pleased with how it went and how engaged the students were.

In addition to the presentation, students from grades seventh through 12th also had the chance to use a distracted driving simulator. The drivers were given 30 seconds of “free” driving time to get used to the simulator, then a phone would ring and they had to respond.

The program would not have been possible without the help of sponsors, said Bink. Sponsors of the event were Meijer, Walmart, and Magnuson Grand Pioneer Inn and Suites.