One split second to reply “Yes” or even just to sneak a glance at your cellphone is often the difference between life and death for driver’s today.
That was the message representatives from Kramer Entertainment tried to hammer home to Carroll County High School students during an assembly and driving simulator Friday at the Hillsville school. Students took to the wheel of the simulator with a connected phone that sent text messages every 20 seconds. The kids were asked to reply to each text while driving the simulator to get a feel for how easy it is to wreck in the same real-life situation.
“It opened my eyes to see just looking down for a second can cause you to wreck,” Carroll County High School senior Kayleigh Webb said. “I only do it at stoplights mostly. It is very distracting and this shows just how sudden it can change.”
Miguel Gonzales was one of two representatives on hand Friday from the Kramer Entertainment Save A Life Tour. Gonzales lost one of his best friends at the age of 15 whose entire family was killed when their vehicle ran into the back of a tractor-trailer at about 80 miles per hour due to distracted driving.
“We are trying to show kids how fast your life can end. I tell them there is only a couple of places you can end up if you text and drive – in jail, in the hospital, or God forbid, dead,” Gonzales said. “I told them if you go to jail, you may think the person who texted you is your best friend in the world – but they are not going to pay your hospital bills. You have to. They are not going to pay the funeral. Your family is going to have to. And I just hope they listen.”
That is why Gonzales said he goes out of his way to make the simulations even harder for students. He said he will shake the wheel while students are driving. He will yell things at students such as “Hey mom, hey dad, what are you doing?” over and over. The whole point is to drive home just how dangerous distracted driving is for not just kids, but adults as well.
“I tell the kids, you do not win when you do this. You only survive. I am only 24 but I am smart enough to understand it is stupid. I have had people that died in my past,” Gonzales said. “Some of these kids need a tragedy to wake them up. I hope that doesn’t happen to them. I want them to wake up and the whole goal is to wake them up before there is a tragedy. That is why I push them. They probably hate me. I don’t care if they hate my guts. They can hate me all day long as long as they hear my voice when they drive. “Hopefully they say, ‘Oh snap, I wasn’t supposed to be texting because that big old Mexican kept doing this and doing that.’”
Unfortunately, Gonzales said what he hears from most kids are lies. He says the kids will tell him they haven’t ever texted and driven, then he will see the same kids doing it that very day in the school parking lot.
“That is why if I only reach 25 percent of the students I work with at each school, I am not happy, but I am content. I tell them I care about every single one of you guys like you are my brother and sister because I don’t want you to die. It is that simple,” Gonzales said. “But we do see a lot of positive. I made a girl cry one time. I know it sounds bad, but I told her that she just did that to her mom and her dad, whoever. ‘You crushed that car because you felt the need to say ‘yes.’ That last text cost you that person’s life. That is all it takes.’”
A handful of teachers also took part in Friday’s simulation. CCHS Principal Chuck Thompson said the point of Friday’s activities was to wake everyone up to the dangers of texting and driving.
“We all know that distracted driving is a growing problem – not only with teenagers, but with adults as well. We all have observed drivers of all ages engrossed in their cell phones while driving,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, the video from the assembly and the distracted driving simulators got the attention of our students. It is our hope that by having this assembly that an accident has been prevented.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN