Preventing a preventable teen tragedy

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Simulators used to demonstrate distracted driving dangers

HAZLE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S.

But experts say these tragedies are preventable with the help of strategies that emphasize safety, awareness and common sense.

Gone for most schools are the days of drivers ed classes to teach safety behind the wheel. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, that “ed” came to Hazleton Area Career Center on Thursday with a visiting presentation to drive home potentially life-saving lessons.

With two hands firmly on the steering wheel of a driving simulator, 17-year-old Hazleton Area High School sophomore Brianna Adams tried to dodge virtual dangers.

Having her learner’s permit now for a couple of months, she considers the real experience on the road “a little nerve-wracking.”

When asked what she finds “nerve wracking” about actual driving, Ms. Adams said “Just everything around you like to make sure there’s no kids crossing. There’s no animals running across.”

Ms. Adams is in a very vulnerable age group. The CDC reports per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than other drivers to be in a fatal crash. Distracted driving is often to blame.

“Kids are texting and driving and they’re using their cell phone to talk while they’re driving and they’re even looking at their cell phone to use the internet,” said Lehigh Valley Health Network Trauma Prevention Coordinator Bill McQuilken.

Lehigh Valley Health Network teamed up with PennDOT and Northeast Highway Safety Program to provide driving simulators and other materials to drive-home the danger of impaired and distracted driving.

Hazleton Area sophomore Anthony Arroyo chose the distracted mode on the driving simulator to see just how dangerous taking your eyes off the road can be.

“Considering how fast circumstances change, it could pretty much result in a very bad situation… even death which is really something considering it takes like a fraction of a second to even happen,” he said.

It was only a simulation but one which Hazleton Area Career Center Health/Physical Education Teacher Jane Medvecky hopes leaves a lasting impression.

“Hopefully they’ll think twice now when they start getting their licenses and they’ll be more cautious,” Ms. Medvecky said.

The traffic simulators will shift from Hazleton Area Career Center on Friday to Hazleton Area High School just across the street.

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