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Benton Evening News - Benton, IL
  • BCHS students learn about dangers of distracted driving

  • Driver education students at BCHS got a firsthand look at distracted and impaired driving earlier this week.



    Trooper David Sneed of the Illinois State Police accompanied students Monday afternoon as they drove a golf cart through a course set up in the bus barn at Benton Consolidated High School.


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  • Driver education students at BCHS got a firsthand look at distracted and impaired driving earlier this week.
    Trooper David Sneed of the Illinois State Police accompanied students Monday afternoon as they drove a golf cart through a course set up in the bus barn at Benton Consolidated High School.
    Most of the students in teacher Judy Stark's class are freshmen, Stark said.
    "They haven't gone through behind-the-wheel yet, but the majority have received their permits. They will be taking behind-the-wheel instruction this summer and fall," Stark said.
    Permits allow students to drive with anyone over age 21 who has had a driver's license for a year or more.
    "We find that students are driving not only with their parents, but also with aunt, uncles and grandparents," Stark said.
    Illinois State Police are cracking down on "distracted driving" during the month of May, according to Capt. Michael Irwin.
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records indicate nearly 6,000 people died and more than half a million were injured in traffic crashes in 2008 because of distracted or inattentive drivers.
    "These numbers continue to increase!" Irwin said. "As a result, District 13 will be placing a special emphasis on the enforcement and public awareness efforts in regards to confronting distracted driving during the month of May."
    "Distracted driving" is any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle — which has the potential to distract the person from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of being involved in a crash, Irwin said.
    Two of the most dangerous distracted driving behaviors are talking on a cell phone while driving and texting while driving.
    Currently, under the Illinois Graduated Driver's Licensing Law, all persons under the age of 19 are not allowed to drive and use a cell phone.
    Subsequently, on Jan. 1 of this year, two additional laws went into effect concerning distracted driving.
    The first made it illegal to use a cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA) or portable computer to compose, send or read messages (texting) or access the Internet while driving.
    The second prohibited cell phone use entirely within a school speed zone or construction zone.
    "If you're under 19, it is illegal for you to operate a cell phone while driving," Sneed reminded BCHS students prior to the demonstration. "And it is illegal for anyone to text while driving."
    Sneed said the distraction level of texting-while-driving is comparable to having a 0.16 blood-alcohol content level — twice the legal limit.
    "At 60 miles per hour, if you look down for one second, you've already traveled 80 feet," he said.
    Stuart Thomas was one of the students who attempted to drive the cart through the course while sending a text on his cell phone.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I got through it — after I ran over a couple of cones!" Thomas said.
    Students also had the opportunity to drive the course while wearing "beer goggles" — simulating the vision of someone with a 0.20 BAC, more than twice the legal limit.
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