2017-04-20 / Life in Leelanau

Driven to Distraction

Glen Lake students lead push to ‘Make Driving Safe Again’
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


GLEN LAKE students got behind the wheel of a simulator to learn first-hand the dangers of distracted driving. GLEN LAKE students got behind the wheel of a simulator to learn first-hand the dangers of distracted driving. As weather warms, the end of the school year looms large distracting students from the business at hand, including when they’re behind the wheel of a vehicle.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness month and an opportunity to remind everyone — but especially young drivers — about the importance of distraction-free driving.

“It’s always something to look at during graduations when there are celebrations and big parties,” Sheriff Mike Borkovich said. “We don’t get additional funds for enforcement, so we do what we can to educate drivers.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, crashes are the leading cause of death and account for almost one third of all deaths among people age 16-19.

That, combined with cell phone use is a dangerous situation.


SPEAKERS FROM the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police spoke to students about distracted driving earlier this year. SPEAKERS FROM the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police spoke to students about distracted driving earlier this year. Recognizing this, Glen Lake School applied for and received a grant from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, to organize programs on the dangers of distracted driving under the student-created theme of “Make Driving Safe Again.”

The programs, held earlier this semester, included a Leelanau County Sheriff’s deputy, who talked about safe driving. A portion of this presentation included real video from police cameras, including crashes and statistics from Leelanau County.

“While it’s always a challenge to get students to lead the ‘campaign’ and make things their own, we had a solid core group of five or six students who generally took the reins,” Secondary Principal Brian Hartigan said.

In addition, a Michigan State Police Trooper visited the school on Feb. 22, and brought a driving simulator that required students to drive while responding to distractions such as texting.

Some other highlights included a student-led assembly, random parking lot speed checks, hallway signs, safe driving text messages, and bracelets and hats for completing an online training.

“Distracted driving is a huge issue facing young drivers, so awareness and education will continue to be our focus,” Hartigan said.

Mobile communications allow people to make phone calls, dictate texts, email and update their social media from just about everywhere — including from behind the wheel.

According to David Teater, senior director of the transportation initiatives for the National Safety Council, (NSC) people who drive while using their cell phone are four times more likely to be involved in a crash.

Alone, that statistic is significant. But coupled with the NSC statistic that 10 percent of all motorists talk while driving, it’s downright scary.

Michigan adopted a statewide ban on texting-while-driving in 2010. And while adults are allowed to talk on their cellphones while driving, teens are not. In 2013, the state legislature passed “Kelsey’s Law” which banned mobile phone use by recently licensed drivers —teen drivers with a Level 1 or Level 2 Graduated Driver License.

The law was named in memory of Kelsey Raffaele, a 17-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, who died in a mobile phone-related automobile crash in 2010.

She was texting a male friend while driving.

Under the law, teen drivers are prohibited from initiating a call, answering a call, or listening to or engaging in verbal communication through a mobile phone.

If ticketed, young drivers could receive up to $295 in fines and costs.

This does not apply to those using a voice-operated system integrated into the vehicle or if they are using a phone to:

• Report a traffic accident, medical emergency or serious road hazard.

• Report a situation in which they believe their personal safety is in jeopardy.

• Report or prevent a crime or potential crime against themselves or another person.

In the case of teens with cell phones, the Sheriff said parents — who actually pay for the service — should be involved in the discussion.

“Parents own the phones, not the kids. They don’t need permission to review what’s being done,” Borkovich said. “If you know they were on the road and were on the phone at the same time … It should be on the shoulders of the parents.”

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