Distracted driving exercise impresses students, teachers

LIHUE — Kauai High School student Jaevon Sategna said texting on the road would be difficult during a distracted driving exercise hosted Friday by the Kauai High School Leadership Advocacy class.

Texting while negotiating an obstacle course on foot “was easy,” Sategna said. “But on the road, this would be difficult.”

Because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction, according to the Distraction.gov website.

Another student, junior Noel Constantino, said the course was “pretty difficult.”

“I did one-word responses,” he said. “And you do a lot of quick glances. But it was still pretty difficult.”

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention from the primary task of driving, which endangers people including the driver, passenger and bystanders. These distractions include texting, using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, watching video, or adjusting a radio or music player.

The exercise provided near-life experience in distracted driving, emphasizing texting while driving as part of a national “Stop If You Love Me” campaign to raise awareness about distracted driving.

Taegan Keep, a student from the Kauai Interscholastic Federation champion girls basketball team, took the challenge.

“This was interesting,” Keep said. “I even got a phone call while on the course and nearly hit someone. I’m definitely not going to do this while driving.”

Iwi Rivera, a member of the KIF boys basketball champion team, agreed.

“I don’t think people should text and drive,” he said. “I did it only once, and nearly hit something. I’ll never do it again.”

The government website states that in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, based on figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Atelate Tangatailoa, chair of the committee that hosted the week-long campaign, thought they were pretty successful in raising awareness about distracted driving. The committee did daily news announcements citing statistics on distracted driving, including the fine for being ticketed for an act of distracted driving.

“I think the students did a good job of getting more people to understand the danger of distracted driving,” said Divina Plowman, the class’s instructor and adviser. “I even had other teachers who said they became more aware, and realized they were even guilty of doing things that were in the realm of distracted driving.”

According to statistics provided on the Kauai Police Department website, there were 692 citations issued for mobile electronic device violations through Dec. 31, 2016, the most current date for which figures were available. This is a decrease from 2015 when 828 citations were issued, and in 2014 when 1,323 citations were issued.

“The Kauai Police Department partners with law enforcement agencies across the state, and the Hawaii Department of Transportation to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Roy Asher, KPD assistant chief of the Patrol Services Bureau. “Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of traffic crashes, and we are hopeful that statistics like those talked about are helping to improve driver behavior. Distracted driving continues to be a serious challenge, particularly among younger drivers, and KPD will continue to engage in community outreach and enforcement opportunities to urge motorists to make safety the top priority when operating a vehicle.”

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TGI reporter Alden Alayvilla contributed to this report.

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