A n estimated 3,000 teenagers die every year because of texting and driving, compared to an estimated 2,700 that die in alcohol-related accidents, according to an article posted on newsday.com on May 8, 2013. “It (texting or using a smartphone while driving) has become a major issue amongst drivers,” said Spencer Pace, director of training for the Colorado branch of MasterDrive. “It used to be the newest drivers that people were most concerned about, but now we feel it’s almost at all age levels.”
Ronn Langford of Colorado Springs founded MasterDrive in 1986, after his youngest daughter was killed by a drunk driver on the way back from a movie. Pace said it is clear there is a problem because of distractions like technology, and MasterDrive is doing what it can to be part of the solution. Through their driver’s education programs, MasterDrive shows videos and news stories to spark a discussion about distracted driving, he said. “The message is that if they have to take a call or text, they need to pull to the side of the road and do it,” Pace said.
“It’s not appropriate to do it while in control of the car.”
To demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving, Pace said MasterDrive has an exercise that adds a layer of multitasking to what would normally be required of a driver. “Their performance is drastically impacted,” he said.“We show them that even a little bit of distraction can impact your performance. “A lot of people think they’re just driving but statistically speaking that’s one of the most dangerous things you’re doing in your day.
There’s no reason to compound the risk or increase it to take a call or shoot a text.”
Some local school districts are becoming more aware of the dangers and starting to reach out to their student body to help educate them about safe driving practices. Nanette Anderson, public information officer for Academy School District 20, said the district typically holds their safe driving assemblies in the spring to coincide with prom, but they will be offering a “Rules of the Road” session through the district’s Parent Academy program in September. Matt Meister, director of communications for Falcon School District 49, said the district’s communications department is going to partner with Clear Channel Communications Inc. to create a public service announcement about texting and driving that will air on the radio in September and October. “We are in the brainstorming phases about how we can educate the community about this issue,” he said. Alexis Harrison, a junior at Vista Ridge High School in D 49, said she is currently taking driver’s education courses online through idrivesafely.com. “They talk about that you’re not supposed to text and drive at all and that you can’t have it in your hands while you’re driving,” she said. “You can’t be texting or doing anything where you’re taking your eyes off the road.”
Harrison said most of the information she has received about the dangers of distracted driving have come from her driver’s education course and her parents, not from her high school. What she has heard thus far has not made much impact, she said. A program that brings in real-life situations might be more beneficial, she said. Joy Schmitter, director of the P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth) program at the University of Colorado Hospital said Harrison’s comment is true. Kids in her age group usually are not exposed to a meaningful and memorable program that impacts their decisions about texting and driving. “Students in our program get a ‘reality education day,’” she said. “They get a bit of a lecture, get to see some videos, then go through stations that either simulate distracted driving, or they have to wear drunk goggles and try to perform a roadside sobriety test.”
The P.A.R.T.Y. program was developed in Canada and brought to the UCH in 2007, Schmitter said. It is geared toward students from middle school all the way through college, depending on the content presented, she said. The program was recently expanded to the Colorado Springs area and Falcon Fire Protection District firefighter Matt Gibbs serves as the local program coordinator, she said. “Through a coordinator like Matt, we can bring the program to a school or a youth group,” Schmitter said. “Overall, we talk about thinking about the choices that you make and think about how it’s going to affect other people if something happens to you or if you kill someone. We’ve heard lots of testimonials from people who say they are alive because of having been through the program.”
“There’s plenty of history that shows that distracted driving kills people or results in serious injury,” Pace said. “And it’s become such a major problem.”
For more information on the P.A.R.T.Y. program, visit http://uch. edu/PARTY.
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Reading too many news sources like The Gazette, Twitter, Reddit, Huffington Post — or even The New Falcon Herald — can be bad for your health, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Stress from becoming upset about political issues or tragedies near and far can add as much to a person’s daily symptoms of stress as personal health issues and family strife. Binging on bad news and a malady called Outrage Fatigue Syndrome can create the same emotional and physical symptoms that plague people directly involved with hideous events. The July survey, “The Burden of Stress in America,” asked more than 2,500 American adults about stress in their personal lives, the sources of that stress and how they manage it. Harvard, National Public Radio and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation conducted the stress survey. The study showed that 44 percent of those who had a “great deal of stress” attributed it to “hearing what the government or politicians are doing;” 40 percent cited “watching, reading or listening to the news” as major contributors to their daily stress. The results were about the same as “juggling needs of family members,” which garnered 48 percent. The Pew Research Center studied how people reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks based on their media habits. Sixty-three percent of people in their study stated that “they could not stop watching terrorism reports.” The respondents’ emotional responses to watching the news were similar
to those who were actually in the affected areas or who had family members involved. “Any kind of news, shift in perspective and a shift in how things are or how the future is going to look can cause stress, depression and a whole host of things,” said Holly Gray, a licensed marriage and family
therapist in Falcon. “Humankind are caring people and wired to connect with other people. To see tragedy or injustice done can touch a string, and people can relate with certain pieces of the story and look at their own home or their own children and relate to it on a personal basis — even though it doesn’t directly affect us.”
Coping with stress from bad news, controversy and national tragedies is akin to dealing with stress from family and personal setbacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Limit your time around the sights and sounds of what happened,” the CDC advises in its ‘Coping with Stress Tip Sheet.’ “Don’t dwell on TV, radio, or newspaper reports.”
Focusing on what individuals can control and attempt to change in their own environment can improve their outlook, Gray said.
“One of the most important things to do when it comes to being surrounded by negative news is to look at what you have control over in the situation, and ground yourself in what you have control over,” Gray said.
“People feel helpless in things they can’t change. So, when they look at what they can change, it helps overall satisfaction.”
Global issues like the atrocities related to religious wars can be stressful; however, when someone works with an organization or addresses the issue locally, some of that stress can be alleviated. “With things like ISIS in Iraq, that could be working in organizations for rights for women and children in underprivileged countries or looking close to home and making sure you’re teaching your children about respecting other cultures and beliefs,” Gray said. “One of the other things people can do is truly look at each day that they are living, and say what can I do to make this day a good day. People get wrapped up on planning if a catastrophe happens, what will they do. Sometimes, being prepared is helpful, but sometimes when we get trapped in that, we lose opportunities to enjoy life.”