PANAMA – The International ‘Save a Life Tour’ visited Panama Central School Wednesday to teach students the importance of driving sober and distraction free.
The program aims to informs, educate and demonstrate the potentially deadly consequences of driving while ability impaired; something that Chautauqua County Sheriff Deputy Tim Riley says he sees all too often.
“Consequences financially, consequences with just being dangerous,” said Deputy Riley. “I don’t think kids have the experience driving to begin with, and then to throw in distractions like alcohol and cell phones it becomes way more dangerous.”
Students started the morning with a video and speech presentation. They then got a chance to get behind the wheel, not of a real car, but rather a simulator.
“It was really difficult to turn then try to turn back,” said Sally Watson, a senior at Panama Central School. “It is messing with your brain, overturning caused you to overturn again and that caused you to swerve and hit other people and other objects in the way.”
In the simulation students had to maintain their speed, watch out for pedestrians and follow the rules of the road in an augmented reality. This simulator however had delayed reactions to fully simulate what it’s like to drive while impaired.
Kylie Schnars, another senior at the school, said as a young driver herself she takes steps to focus on the road, and only the road.
“I like to make sure that I get my messages sent before and then I don’t stay on my phone the rest of the way before I get to where I am going,” said Schnars. “I don’t want to be that person that causes a problem and hurts another family because I made a stupid decision.”
Schnars said it is sometimes tough to maintain the discipline to stay off her phone, but it is something that has to be done.
Student Summer Dracup says being from a small community helps keep her group of friends in check.
“We are such a small school, such a small community that we have to protect each other,” said Dracup. “We have to make sure that we are stable and able to drive.”
The trio is a part of Panama Central School’s SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) club.
Helen Keefe, an English Teacher and the SADD advisor, says talking with students about driving while impaired and sharing stories always helps, but the hands on experience of the simulators really connect.
“Hands on are always more impactful,” said Keefe. “A lot of the kids going through the simulation today are new drivers and this is really a wake up call.”
Keefe said her SADD group works all year long to not just prevent impaired driving, but also teach the impacts of bullying and vaping.