05/24/09 — Program encourages safe driving among teens

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Program encourages safe driving among teens

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 24, 2009 2:00 AM

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Rosewood High School senior James Bailey experiences the effects of driving while intoxicated during a Save A Life Tour drinking and driving high-impact simulation Friday.

Emily Moore, 17, is a self-confessed "text-a-holic."

Which means that her mother's pleas to stop texting and driving -- for fear of a ticket or worse -- have gone mostly unheeded by the Rosewood High School junior.

"I text and drive like a fool," Miss Moore said.

Although the state legislature has worked to ban the deadly combo of the driver's wheel and cell phone keypad, teens like Miss Moore say they're addicted.

And although the focus of a program at Rosewood High School on Friday was drunk driving, driving safely was the real goal.

And that's a goal that Miss Moore said her parents understand.

The Friday program was part of a national tour, called the Save a Life Tour -- High Impact Alcohol Awareness Program.

The program was sponsored by Wayne County 4-H and was described as a "huge multimillion dollar drinking and driving simulation experience."

Rosewood High School teens who took part in the program said it actually made them feel what it was like to drink and drive, in a 3-D simulator.

In front of a huge projection screen erected in the Rosewood High gymnasium, teens drove in a simulation that "made the wheel feel light and the brakes feel heavy," Miss Moore said.

In that way and others, teenage drivers, who perhaps had never felt the effects of intoxication, could feel firsthand how alcohol impairs a person's ability to drive.

They were also reminded that drunk driving kills someone in the United States every 30 minutes, and costs taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 billion annually.

The tour also shows teens graphic gory images of drunk driving victims.

Brian Sittig, a 17-year-old Rosewood High School junior, said one image, presented o to the audience in a music-backed video, had already become indelible for him.

"That music video. There was a guy cut in half. He was riding his motorcycle -- he did, like a wheelie, and he was drinking and driving, which is what killed him," Sittig said.

But although the pictures were gory, the message is too important to be glossed over, the teen said.

"Whatever is necessary to get the point across," Sittig said.

Sittig's classmate, Jacob Roberts, who was a football teammate with a Rosewood High School graduate who died in a recent alcohol-related crash, agreed.

Many of the teens referred to Jonathan Peedin, an 18-year-old Rosewood graduate who died in February 2008 along with 20-year-old Grant Williams, an alumnus of Charles B. Aycock High School.

"He (Peedin) was one of my teammates, he was really talented in football. It was a real shock to me, because you don't realize that things like that can happen until they actually do," Roberts said.

Barbara Byers of Wayne County 4-H and the N.C. Cooperative Extension said when she heard of the tour, she felt it could be beneficial for places like Rosewood High School.

School principal David Lewis said the memory of the crash that killed Peedin was still fresh in the minds of many in the community.

"It really hit the community hard," Lewis said. "But as these things get further behind us, people start to forget, it goes to the back of their mind. As summer approaches, this is something we want to be in the front of our students' minds."