A mangled, dark green Ford Thunderbird LX sits in front of Cardinal Stritch High School, and it looks as if the driver could have been injured in it.
No worry, the driver is fine, although she received minor injuries in a recent accident. Now, her car is being used to send a message--Do not text while driving.
The 17-year-old girl who drove the car was texting while driving in a parking lot when she lost control and her car rolled over.
The driver’s side is virtually spared, fortunately for the driver, but there is glass throughout the automobile and the passenger side is destroyed with the top of the car virtually smashed in so that anyone sitting there would have suffered injuries.
The driver is a client of Dan R’s Automotive on Navarre Avenue in Oregon. When Cathy Reichow, an owner there, saw the damage, she had an idea.
“This person was checking their cell phone while still in the parking lot and lost control of the vehicle – the vehicle jumped the curb and while trying to gain control the driver hit a fire hydrant and rolled the car. The driver walked away from the accident with only minor scrapes and bruises,” Reichow said. “We thought it would be a great tool to use for high school students (or adults for that matter ) to see what can happen in just a few seconds when you are distracted using a cell phone. My sister in law, Cassandra Reichow, lettered up the car this past Saturday. We want to tow the vehicle to different high schools for students to see--it makes a real impact when you stand next to the flattened car!
“I know cell phone use is a hot topic in the State right now. On August 6th we had a former employee from Lebanon, Ohio killed when a women on a cell phone hit him on his motorcycle. He was a 34-year-old father of four children.”
Dan R’s got the car to Stritch the day after Labor Day. Immediately after, the school brought the issue up at a Friday pep rally and had a public service announcement about driving while on the cell phone.
The following messages are painted on the car:
• On the hood in bright paint reads, “This occurred while using a cell phone in a parking lot;”
• On the front bumper, “Don’t drive distracted;”
• On the back trunk, “Driven by a high school student;”
• On the passenger side, “God was watching. No injuries;”
• On the driver’s side, “Think first; then act. Consider the consequences. This person walked away.”
Thinking of young people
Father David Reinhart, Kateri Catholic School president, welcomed the idea of bringing the car to Stritch.
“Consider us in! We love the idea,” Fr. Reinhart wrote in an e-mail to Dan R’s. “Thank you for thinking of us and our young people.”
After the auto was towed to Stritch, the school newspaper staff there jumped on the opportunity to conduct a study on the dangers of cell phone use and driving, said journalism advisor Angela Young.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how beat up it was — that could happen in a parking lot just driving around texting,” said senior Kaitlyn Filzer, a member of the editorial board. “I think it’s important because almost everyone I know texts while they are driving. It really is dangerous, so people need to understand just how bad things can go.”
Another editor, junior Drew Dauer, said, “There are people who drive and a lot of people do this. A lot of them are lucky enough to not be in this situation where you get in a crash like that, and how do you feel that you got so lucky to live? This accident was really bad…How did she live? That car is pretty much, well, it is, totaled.”
The school newspaper was developing a strategy to get the message out, said senior reporter Brianna Wlodarz. She will write the story for The Bird’s Word.
According to a study published online by Pennsylvania law firm Edgar Snyder & Associates, despite the risks the majority of teen drivers ignore the problems of cell phone driving. The study concluded:
• In 2007, driver distractions, such as using a cell phone or text messaging, contributed to nearly 1,000 crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers.
• Over 60 percent of American teens admit to risky driving, and nearly half of those that admit to risky driving also admit to text messaging behind the wheel.
• Each year, 21 percent of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage. This result has been expected to grow as much as four percent every year.
• Almost 50 percent of all drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 are texting while driving. Over one-third of all young drivers, ages 24 and under, are texting on the road.
“What is clear is that talking on the phone and texting behind the wheel both lead to distraction, and driver inattention is the leading cause of car accidents,” the law firm concluded.