The event kicked off Distracted Driving Awareness Month (April) and was also a part of California’s Teen Driver Safety Week. The raceway, partnered with the California Highway Patrol, the Simraceway Performance Driving Center, Impact Teen Drivers and Verihealth, Inc. in this awareness and educational event, which took place on the Sonoma Raceway road course.
Ten students participated in the hands-on driving event, which was designed to illustrate the dangers of distracted driving. The day began with a presentation by Impact Teen Drivers and the California Highway Patrol, including Maria Coyner, a driver who took a life while texting and driving. Participating students were from Analy High School (Sebastopol), Justin-Siena High School (Napa), Hanna Boys Center (Sonoma), Sonoma Valley High School and Vintage High School (Napa).
For the simulation, students completed a series of drills including an ABS braking exercise, skid control basics and a timed course during which they handled basic in-car distractions, including adjusting the radio, opening a water bottle and talking with passengers. Instructors from the Simraceway Performance Driving Center, which is based at the raceway, oversaw and rode with all participants.
Overall, eighty percent of the students were slower and crashed more while they were distracted, meaning they ran over a cone or missed a section of track. All teens were surprised by the significant impact of in-car distractions on their driving ability.
“How can I not think about these things? I just experienced it here, so how is “here” any different than out on the road,” said Justin-Siena High School student, Shawnee Wallace of Sonoma. “It’s definitely one of those things that will carry out on the open road and it’s going to apply to everyone.”
Recent data reflects the need for continued focus on the dangers of distracted driving. Around 4,000 teens die each year in car crashes that are 100-percent preventable and 400,000 teens are seriously injured. Seventy-five percent of the car crashes that kill teens have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol, just reckless and distracted driving. Continued education and awareness are needed to combat these alarming statistics.
“The students are still learning to drive, so we are trying to equip them with the right tools to make sure that when they get out on the road, they can react properly and make the right decision,” said Officer Marc Renspurger of California Highway Patrol.