By John Savageau
On Tuesday morning students from John Burroughs High School, law enforcement officers from the Burbank Police Department and California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the Mercedes Benz Driving Academy joined forces to kickoff California Teen Safe Driving Week and National Distracted Driving Month. The objective – get the word out and raise awareness on the dangers of distracted driving.
Carloyn Duchene, Director of the Mecedes-Benz Driving Academy advised “90% of vehicle crashes are the result of human error, and crashes are the #1 killer of teens.” Teen drivers often feel they are invincible, able to multitask while driving by adding texting, mobile phone calls, loud music, and a load of passengers while navigating the roads.
According to Sgt Darin Ryburn, Media Relations Officer with the Burbank Police Department, “just handling a car is difficult enough. Braking, acceleration, making all the decisions necessary to handle a car are bad enough, but adding other distractions such as texting or a group of friends talking and screaming in the car just add to the problem.”
The kickoff event also included demonstrations for both students and adults, hosted by the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, on the impact of distracted driving. Cones were set up along Clark Ave., in front of John Burroughs High School defining a test driving course. Drivers hopped into one of the cars supplied by Mercedes-Benz, loaded with noisy news crews, loud music, and smartphones, and students took their best shot at driving the course with and without distractions.
Most did a great job navigating the course without distractions, but routinely flattened cones when driving distracted.
Duchene added “teen drivers are 4 times more likely to have a crash in the 1st month of driving” while gaining critical skills. Additional statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identify distracted driving accounting for 25% of all reported crashes in the United States, totaling 1.3 million crashes, with a shocking 75% of all teen crashes being attributed to driver error.
Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse emphasized “we must reinforce (distracted driving) awareness on a recurring basis. If you are a teen driver, do not tolerate distractions while driving.” LaChasse continued “we prefer to engage in driver education, not enforcement. All of us have investigated too many fatal and injury accidents”
CHP Officer Jose Barrios agreed, adding “distracted driving is a huge problem in the 16-25 age group. Adults must present a good example to new drivers. When driving with teens, and children, do not drive while putting on makeup, eating, nothing that would cause a distraction.” And more importantly providing a bad example for young or future drivers.
“For the most part young drivers know they are making a mistake or violating the law” noted Barrios. “New drivers must know they could be presenting a danger to themselves, their passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians.”
Several speeches by dignitaries including Commissioner Joseph Farrow of the CHP, Dr. Kelley Browning from Impact Teen Drivers, Burbank Mayor Dave Golonski, Superintendent Jan Britz from the Burbank Unified School District, and an emotional testimonial from Ms. Bonnye Spray, mother of a teen driver killed while driving distracted. All strongly emphasized the importance of developing a culture of safe driving.
Burbank Councilman Jesse Talamantes concluded ”the community has a responsibility to build a culture of responsibility,” and events like the Burroughs High School demonstration is a good step in that direction.