By Kelly Kilpatrick, School Counselor at Kingwood Park High School, Humble Independent School District
Distracted driving is a dangerous issue we continue to battle in our schools and with our students. For years, drinking and driving was the main focus, but recently a new danger has emerged. The popularity of and dependence on cell phones and their numerous apps has increased the number of distractions we face while driving.
One of my roles at Kingwood Park High School is to facilitate the Live Your DREAMS program with Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. As a previous medical professional and health science teacher, I was excited to take on this role. I strive to provide our students with opportunities that will open their eyes and educate them on various issues we see today.
Teaching Eye-Opening Lessons on the Dangers of Distracted Driving
For the past four years, our high school juniors and seniors have participated in the Live Your DREAMS program, which aims to reduce impaired and distracted driving among teens. To this day, we have been able to put more than 1,200 of our young students through this program in hopes they will take home the information, and inspire their peers and parents to reduce their distractions and make the roads safer.
With so many lives lost due to distracted driving in the Greater Houston area, we wanted to give our students an experience that would reinforce the message that we can and need to prevent distracted driving collisions. The format of the program has opened the eyes of our students, who believe they will never be affected by a distracted driving crash.
The feedback we received from students and parents is a major reason this program continues every year. Students shared how the first-person accounts of survivors and family members made the issue of distracted driving much more personal and real. They also shared how the impact of seeing the destroyed cars involved in these collisions affected them. Each vehicle was accompanied by a friend or family member of the victim(s), who told their personal stories of the crash. Ironically, many students mentioned how they want to encourage their parents to put their phones down, as well.
Touring the Trauma Center and Seeing the Consequences of Distracted Driving
In addition to the day-time awareness event, selected students and their parents visited Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center during the evening hours to tour the trauma intensive care unit (ICU). This portion of the program allows students to learn from the physicians, nurses and caregivers who work on the front line to care for patients who have been severely injured due to a distracted driving crash.
The ongoing issue of distracted driving is not going away. It is our responsibility to educate those younger than us about the dangers, but also to lead by example in making our roads safer.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To learn how you can join Memorial Hermann to drive change in the fight against distracted driving visit http://www.memorialhermann.org/drivingchange/ .