BY RUSSELL EDEM
Great Bend High School students got a first hand look at the dangers of driving and texting at the NexGeneration W8T 2 TXT program on Thursday at the school.
The program took place at the high school parking lot where there was an obstacle course set up. Each student took turns driving golf carts through the course while trying to text at the same time.
“The goal is to build awareness,” Nex-Generation’s Executive Director Jacque Beckman said “Let’s face it, we are on our phones a lot. When behind the wheel, our use of a phone or any electronic device becomes a huge distraction. At NexGeneration, we are dedicated to helping students recognize these distractions and make better choices toward preventing traffic accidents and fatalities – choices that may save a life,”
Participants learned important tips about minimizing distractions, such as turning the cell phone off and putting it away while driving; not driving while tired or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; and not phoning or texting someone else whom you know is behind the wheel.
They also heard the true story of Ashley Umscheid, a Kansas State University freshman who died as a result of texting and driving in 2009. To help reinforce the W8T 2 TXT message, students took home a free key chain and signed a W8T 2 TXT pledge at the end of the program.
“Our main concern is keeping these kids safe when they get behind the wheel,” Beckman said. “So during the presentation we will give them tips about distractive driving. We will teach them what good choices they have when driving and we want them to have an emotional connection to the program, so we tell them some real life stories of people that have been involved with what happens when people text and drive.”
Nearly 200 driver’s education students participated in both an auditorium presentation, as well as a hands-on driving course in the parking lot.
Barton County law enforcement assisted with the driving course by providing impaired vision goggles.
“Its great to have the police department here helping with this program,” Beckman said. “Not only do they see what its like trying to drive and text and see the dangers of it they also get to see what it is like to drive while being impaired.”
Teachers volunteered as “driving coaches” while students drove the golf carts through a mini-driving course, complete with cones, signage, and simulated distractions (people at crosswalks, children playing ball, etc.). In addition, Nex-Generation Student Intern Renee Elpers, Nex-Tech employee Jodie Roberson, and Nex-Tech Wireless Agent Manager Dorothy Stieben were on site to assist with the program.