Freshmen at King George High School learned about the dangers of distracted driving Wednesday during a program by Drive Smart Virginia. Founded in 1995, the organization strives to improves driver safety through public information and education sessions.
Simulations at King George demonstrated the hazards of distracted driving, which causes eight of every 10 crashes in Virginia, according to Drive Smart. Students climbed behind the wheel of a simulator or onto tricycles and donned headgear that showed how quickly they could lose control if they took their eyes off the road to text, adjust the radio or reach for something to eat.
“Cell phone use has been identified as a serious cause of distraction,” according to the Drive Smart website. “When you talk on the phone, your focus is on the conversation and your brain activity associated with driving is reduced by almost 40 percent.”
The impact of distracted driving is particularly relevant to King George students, who lost a classmate in August 2013.
Lauren White, 14, was in a car with her mother, Bethany Dempsey, and her mother’s boyfriend and his children. A truck driver, who said he lost control as he reached for paper directions that were blowing around the cab, slammed into the back of the car.
The impact killed all three passengers in the back seat: Lauren, her mother and Abigail Cullen, the 8-year-old daughter of her mother’s boyfriend.
Lauren’s grandfather, Sheriff Steve Dempsey, and aunt, Christina Dempsey, were at Wednesday’s Drive Smart event. Del. Margaret Ransone, who has campaigned against distracted driving with Christina Dempsey, also attended. More information about their efforts is on Facebook.