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More than 2,400 high school, middle school, and technology students from across Oklahoma were expected to join the Oklahoma Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) virtual safe driving event that was held on Thursday, September 17, 2020.
Students learned how to spot motorcycles, drive safely around semi-trucks and energy equipment and see a wrecked car in which a family was killed by a distracted driver.
They also role-played how to say no to a distracted driver and be introduced to other safe driving topics including safe walking, safe biking, and the dangers of alcohol, other drugs, and driving.
“This Oklahoma Challenge conference was unique because it encourages teens to address safe driving by taking this information back to their schools and communities and share the message with their peers,” said Richard Coberg, Ph.D., Founder of the Oklahoma Challenge Project.
The purpose of the LEAD/Oklahoma Challenge conference is to teach students ways they can reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths in their local communities.
“We are proud to continue our tradition of bringing the best and the brightest safety professionals and information to the FCCLA even this year when our schools learning environments have been redesigned for the global pandemic. We know that teens talking to teens about this lifesaving issue, works, they listen to each other. To save lives we must continue this conversation,” said Dr. Coberg.
Several programs werehighlighting this year’s event. On the agenda was Joel Feldman, whose daughter was killed by a distracted driver. Feldman shared national resources as well as guided students through role plays to help them practice saying no to a distracted driver.
To keep students engaged with this information and reinforce positive personal behavior change, a new distracted driving app and online competition was announced.
The goal of the Oklahoma Challenge is to reduce the numbers of deaths and injuries throughout the state due to youth driving distracted and not properly wearing their seat belts.
At this virtual conference, FCCLA students learned about the growing problem of distracted driving, current laws against texting and driving, and ways in which they can develop a plan to raise awareness and change behavior around the issue in their community.
Students returned home to share the message, teen to teen. Students have access to information, statistics, speakers, and other programs from the OklahomaChallenge.org website to enrich their projects in their school and community.
Every year, about 1.6 million people are injured in crashes involving a driver who was distracted in some way.
Each year, more than 390,000 wrecks caused by texting while driving lead to severe injuries. Each day, nine people are killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. Seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives. However, seat belt usage has gone down from 90.1 percent in 2016 to 89.6 percent in 2018.
“Most people do not realize the enormity of the distracted driving epidemic, which disproportionally hurts and kills young drivers who are learning to drive yet are driving distracted,” said Linda Terrell, director of the Oklahoma Challenge.
“It can be a deadly combination. -The problem is very serious in Oklahoma, where 76 drivers under the age of 21 were involved in fatal crashes in 2019,” said Terrell.