Officer Scott Connor of the Canton Police Dept. explains something to student Robert Chadbourne as he sits at the virtual texting-while-driving simulator during a presentation on the dangers of texting while driving. Photo by Judy Bass.
Canton-based LoJack Corp. and Canton Police Department team up to inform students about not texting while driving
By Judy Bass
The harrowing story that Officer Scott Connor of the Canton Police Department tells of his motor vehicle accident two years ago is chilling to hear. Nevertheless, he tells it to make a crucial point to an audience of students at Blue Hills Regional Technical School – namely, that taking your eyes off the road while driving, even for a moment, can have devastating, even lethal, consequences.
With a photo of his battered police cruiser projected on a screen behind him, Connor, the school’s resource officer, described what happened when he was driving on York Street in Canton while not wearing a seat belt.
He glanced away from the road just for an instant. A potentially life-changing split second.
Connor crashed and sustained serious injuries. In fact, he said he still has a scar on his head. But fortunately, he survived.
His memorable tale of distracted driving was one feature of a presentation made to Blue Hills students recently by Canton-based LoJack Corporation, a manufacturer of vehicle tracking systems, in conjunction with the Canton Police Department, about the significant dangers of driving while texting. Additional guests included Canton Police Chief Kenneth Berkowitz; Cal Deyermond, the law enforcement liaison for LoJack; Canton Police Sergeant Charles Rae; Jason Aleman, LoJack Marketing Specialist; and Jeremy Warnick, LoJack Corporate Communications Manager.
The statistics are sobering: According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes have become the leading cause of death among U.S. teens. Drivers who text while behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to be in a crash, notes the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Also from Virginia Tech, the statement that sending or receiving a text message takes approximately 4.6 seconds. Traveling at 55 miles an hour, that means a driver is going the length of a whole football field, roughly 100 yards, while looking at a cell phone, not at the road.
Connor’s cautionary message was reinforced by Deyermond.
“You’re not invincible,” he told the students. “Your life is determined by the decisions you make.”
Deyermond added, “It only takes a couple of seconds of distracted driving and bad things can happen.”
He offered some common-sense tips including pulling over to a safe area if you need to read or send a text message or make a cell phone call, obey speed limits, stay a safe distance from other vehicles on the road, and prepare for your drive ahead of time (eat, review maps, be well-rested).
Before proceeding to the next phase of the presentation, students could pick up printed material such as a booklet from LoJack called “Teen Smarts: Keeping You Safe and Your Vehicle Secure,” along with a personal pledge that states, “I have read and understand the [safe driving] tips and pledge to be a safer driver by not texting while driving.”
Now came the interactive portion of the presentation.
A group of students went to a lecture hall, where a virtual texting-while-driving simulator was set up.
Each student chosen to use the simulator sat at a table where a console with a steering wheel was ready to go. In front of that table on the wall was a large screen which depicted the virtual road where the driver was traveling. In the student’s hand was a smart phone which periodically displayed text messages.
If the student glanced away from the road to read the text and got into an accident, the screen had a vivid message: “YOU CRASHED!”
The only student who negotiated the test without an accident did not look away to read the text shown on the smart phone, which vividly reinforced the theme of the event – don’t text while driving.
“Blue Hills would like to thank Officer Scott Connor and LoJack for organizing the presentation about distracted driving,” said Dean of Students Thomas Cavanaugh. “The students who participated and witnessed the simulation spoke of how it opened their eyes to the dangers of distracted driving, especially texting and driving. We hope that this will help make our students safer as they drive the roads.”