Keeping eyes on the road

LIHUE — Texting. 

Talking on a cellphone. 

Reaching for your cellphone. 

All verifiable dangers when you’re behind the wheel of a car. For newly licensed teens, like Jocelynn Palacio-Pablo, the dangers are definitive — 13 percent of drivers 18 to 20 years of age involved in car wrecks admitted to texting or talking on their mobile devices at the time of a crash, according to textinganddrivingsafely.com.

Palacio-Pablo passed her drivers license test four months ago. The 17-year-old Kapaa High School student knows what it’s like to ride with unsafe drivers — her older siblings. 

“I was scared and never knew what was going to happen,” she said.

They would text, talk on the phone and change the radio station.

“I didn’t say anything to make them stop because they wouldn’t have listened to me,” Palacio-Pablo said. 

She plans to operate differently. She pledges to drive without distractions.

“If you hit a car, your insurance could go up and my parents would take away my license and probably not give it back until they trust me again,” Palacio-Pablo said. 

That’s what Mike Martinez, a State Farm Insurance agent, did years ago when his newly licensed son got involved in an accident. 

“He had friends in the car and they were talking,” Martinez said. 

Martinez, who has insured 15 new teen drivers on Kauai over the past nine months said he temporarily revoked his son’s driving privileges. 

“He learned his lesson,” Martinez recalled. 

His passion for safe driving, blended with Kapaa High School Principal Daniel Hamada’s commitment to being pro-active when it comes to his students’ safety, has resulted in a commitment to a “Celebrate My Drive” campaign. 

Hamada considers the fact there are 1,060 students in his school, half of whom are able to drive, a powerful reason to get on board with the program. 

“We need to remind kids and the public about what is going on, whether it’s about civic responsibility or safe driving,” Hamada said. “Education starts in the school.” 

 The theme of “Celebrate My Drive” is 2N2, which means, “Two eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel.” 

Kapaa High School registered to participate in the safe driving commitment, sponsored by State Farm. 

Anyone 14 years of age and over, not just Kapaa High School students, can go online starting Oct. 15 and click to commit to safe driving, thereby registering a “vote” toward winning — on the road and in the contest. 

“Let’s show our aloha, our unity,” Martinez said. “It has nothing to do with politics. It’s about the kids.” 

The 100 schools nationwide with the most commitments will be awarded a total of $3.25 million in grants. Ten schools will receive a $100,000 grant each, with two of them getting a free concert by the Grammy nominated band Perry. The other 90 schools will each receive $25,000 grants.

Ten percent of the winnings need to be used for teen driving educational purposes. The remainder can be used at the school’s discretion. 

The contest runs through Oct. 24 and the winners will be announced in December. To vote, visit www.celebratemydrive.com. It is limited to one safe driving commitment per person, per e-mail address per day. 

Lisa Ann Capozzi, a features and education reporter can be reached at lcapozzi@thegardenisland.com

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