2014-10-16 / Front Page

Following accident, ‘safety council’ sought

by Amy Hubbell
of the Enteprise staff

A student-led group focused on driving safely is being organized at Glen Lake School in the aftermath of a horrific accident that claimed two lives.

The Glen Lake Board of Education endorsed Monday night an effort by students and other community members to explore the topic of driver safety.

The move comes less than two months after a car crash that resulted in the deaths of Glen Lake senior Drake Hendershot and 31- year- old Brian Nachazel of Cedar.

In addition, two other students, members of the Glen Lake football team, were seriously injured in the Aug. 23 crash.

As of this week, no charges have been authorized as a result of the accident.

Before the end of the month students and secondary Principal Konrad Molter are expected to meet with Jennifer Ritter, a district parent and injury/prevention coordinator for Michigan State University Extension/Munson Trauma.

“We’ll be brainstorming to see where the students want to go with this...” said Ritter, whose work area includes 25 counties in northwest Michigan. “To see where they’d have the most impact.”

Ritter said she was approached by students who also know her as the mother of three boys who attend Glen Lake. Ritter then spoke with Molter.

If it gets off the ground, Ritter said the “safety council” would be the first of its kind in Leelanau County.

As an MSU educator, she spends time with students, community groups and businesses to increase safety awareness. Most recently, she has been spending time with students elsewhere in the region in communities affected by tragic car accidents.

“In driver’s education, kids learn driving skills,” Ritter said. “But there’s not much covering driving distracted.”

Through the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Highway Safety and Planning, Ritter has a lot of resources from which to draw.

“I go in with a Power Point presentation and have a state trooper with me or local deputy to talk about injury prevention,” she explained. “If I go in with someone the kids know, they are more likely to take notice.”

Once organized the “safety council” comprised of students, teachers, administrators and community members, would decide what they’d like to provide in terms of activities and possible speakers with a focus on driver safety.

“They would be the driving force and I would act as a mentor,” Ritter said. “They are a lot more vested if they have ownership in it.”

Other possible activities could including question and answer sessions with police officers or exercises that demonstrate how difficult it is for drivers to perform other tasks — such as texting or talking on the phone — while driving.

“We have adult tricycles and have the students try to drive through an ‘obstacle course’ while texting,” Ritter said. “It doesn’t take long for them to recognize how this applies to driving a vehicle.”

Other tools simulate driving with distractions and “drink goggles,” provide students with a glimpse of how alcohol can affect those behind the wheel.

Students and parents from neighboring districts could also be invited to attend sessions which could also include a component of “parent education.”

“This could remind parents about Michigan’s graduate driver’s license and what’s allowed at each of the levels,” Ritter said.

Students are able to begin driver’s education as young as 14 years, 8 months. But at each level of the graduated license, there are different restrictions on driving times as well as the number and age of passengers allowed.

While members of the Board of Education endorsed the group’s efforts, they stopped short of committing further Monday pending receipt of details on planned activities or possible speakers.

Return to top