Students learn life lessons

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cones lie in the path of Northside High School senior John Carter as he finishes his final lap and answers a text message with trooper Doug Coley by his side. The obstacle course was part of a distracted driving event held at the school this week. (WDN Photo/Mona Moore)

Seniors at Northside High School seemed a little distracted this week. The distractions were thanks to state troopers determined to teach students a lesson.
As part of the school’s “Texting and Driving…It can wait” campaign, seniors participated in an obstacle course involving a golf cart, safety cones, a stop sign and two distractions: a cell phone and a trooper.
Students drove golf carts down a cone-lined path, maneuvering sharp curves and a traffic sign. A state trooper sitting next to them provided a few comments and suggestions for the ride.
State trooper Doug Coley explained one driver’s demise as troopers Chris High and Charles Ashley pulled obliterated cones lodged in the undercarriage of the golf cart.
“I told him to pop open the sunroof and that about did it right there,” Coley said.
Troopers suggested drivers turn on imaginary radios, peppered them with questions, encouraged them to drive faster then passed them their phones when a text message inevitably was received.
Senior Chase Brooks, 17, learned his lesson.
“You take your eyes off the road and realize how many people you could actually kill,” he said after his turn at the wheel.
Trooper J.S. Collins said the obstacle course was the width of a lane of traffic. Each cone represented the white or yellow line that could be crossed anytime someone was distracted. In some cases, the cones represented a worse scenario.
“The cones could’ve been people standing at their mailboxes. They could’ve been children standing at their bus stop,” Collins. “We wanted to show them how easy it is to lose your train of thought.”
Collins drove that message home during a school-wide assembly that afternoon.  Chocowinity resident Tracy O’Carroll was also there to share how her daughter, Sarah Edwards, died answering a text as she drove.
State Farm representative Linda Schulz got involved in the event because of Edwards.
“I always think of her. I don’t know why,” Schulz said. “When I hear about an accident, she’s the first thing that flashes in my mind.”
Tables in the school’s lobby offered thumb rings that obstructed the ability to text. Students were given the opportunity to take a pledge not to text.
John Lyon, regional director of external affairs for AT&T, also spoke at the assembly. He said AT&T is involved in a nationwide campaign to stop texting and driving.
“We really are trying to make texting and driving as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving,” Lyon said.
He asked students to remember one number: 23.
“If you text and drive, you are 23 times more likely to be in an accident,” he said.