East Jessamine High School senior Ethan Hager has his driver’s permit. He also can type text messages fairly well without looking at his phone. But after a defensive-driving program Monday at school, he was determined to never let those two abilities cross paths.
“I’m giving someone else my phone, because I don’t want to risk it,” Hager said.
Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts’ driver-education program visited the school with two driving simulators that put students in dozens of different scenarios and measured their reactions and responses. About 275 students participated when the program visited West High earlier in the month; about 200 East students were expected to have experienced it after Monday and Tuesday.
Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl asked Roberts to bring the program to Jessamine County — Goettl had a very personal interest since his son had flipped a car on Sulphur Well Road about a month ago but escaped without injury.
“He was just driving in to school on a straight stretch of road,” Goettl said. “He went off on the noise strips; that scared him. He came back to the left a little bit too quickly, and that scared him again. He went right — you can see the skid marks on the road — and he started going toward a telephone pole and then jerked it back left and went all the way across Sulphur Well into the grass and that flipped him through a fence, and he missed a tree and a brick mailbox. It’s amazing that he walked away without a scratch.”
Billy Fryer, director of instruction for the program, told students that most teenagers don’t leave enough room between their own cars and cars in front of them — a danger that increases exponentially when drivers are distracted and inattentive.
“If you have an accident in that car, the number-one reason is driving distractions,” Fryer said. “We can name driving distractions till the cows come home, but the number-one driving distraction — far and away from everything else — is cell phones and texting; it’s number one by a mile.”
Fryer and fellow instructor Randy Fosson illustrated the danger to students by asking them to type a text message or read a text message on their phones while waiting for a stop sign to appear in the simulator.
“I learned I can’t read and drive,” Hager said after his turn on the simulator. “Texting and driving I’ve done before, but not much. He asked me to read, and I had nothing to pay attention to; I couldn’t even pay attention.”
In addition to visits to central-Kentucky schools, the Fayette County program features a five-day class in the summer in Lexington. Roberts began the program last year with no tax funding; it relies entirely on individual and corporate support. Toyota on Nicholasville donated 11 cars last year, and 85 teenagers graduated from the summer class last June.
For information on enrollment and scheduling classes, contact Roberts at 859-226-1814 or email@example.com.