December 2018 • Welcome Home www.welcomehomesa.com 22 Submitted By Melinda Cox M ost drivers know how dangerous it is to drive distracted. Most drivers also know it is safer to always keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, yet San Antonio leads the state in distracted driving crash fatalities. In 2014, San Antonio passed a hands-free cell phone ordinance. However, last year alone, the San Antonio Police Department issued over 12,000 citations to drivers who were using their phone while driving. The JohnsonHighSchool PTSASmartDrivingClubwas established in 2012 to remind the Jaguar campus the dangers of distracted driving. Members of this club work on campus and throughout the community to remind drivers to make safe choices every time they get behind the wheel. This year, the campus hosted its sixth annual Safe Driving event on October 25 during National Teen Driver Safety Week. The annual event brings law enforcement, safety groups and organizations to the Johnson campus to help remind students of the dangers of driving distracted and drunk driving. The Safe Driving event is held during student lunches and brings information and interactive opportunities to students. Members of the Smart Driving Club help to organize and run the event with the hopes of furthering the clubs’ mission which is to remind drivers and passengers they must always make safe choices behind the wheel, which includes staying off of the phone. Distracted drivers are 23 more times likely to be involved in a crash. SAPD Officer Esquivel also knows the impact that a distracted driver can have on a life. Esquivel attended the event to remind students of the dangers of texting and driving. He experienced the dangers firsthand: Esquivel’s life was almost taken by a distracted driver. “In 2012, I was hit by a distracted driver,” said Esquivel. “The guy was texting and driving. I was parked on the side of the road and was behind my patrol car. I looked back and saw this guy coming at me real fast. I took off running, but by the time he looked up it was too late and he hit me on the side of my body. I spent three months in an intensive care unit and three months in a rehab center learning to walk again. It was hard on my kids, my wife and my parents.” The Johnson High School PTSA Smart Driving club continues to organize the Safe Driving event so that friends, family and the entire campus will make safe choices on the road. Organizations from across the city also join the campus each year, working to create a conversation with students and help them understand their role as safe drivers. The hope is that the student driver takes this message with him or her and shares it at home and with others. During the Safe Driving event, pedal kart obstacles courses were set up by the Texas Department of Transportation. Students were asked to drive the karts through the course while texting and driving. SAPD Central SAFFE officers supplied “drunk goggles” for the students to wear while they tried to walk a straight line or drive the pedal kart through the obstacle course. Students quickly realized the difficulty of these tasks and the consequences of driving distracted or impaired. Students were also reminded that the cones that they hit while attempting these tasks represent pedestrians or cars. Students were also able to experience real driving scenarios through the use of a driving simulator provided by University Health Systems. The simulator gave students the chance to test their driving skills while speeding, driving distracted and driving under the influence. Throughout the day, members of the Smart Driving Club encouraged students to sign their “Don’t Drive Distracted Pledge” banner and passed out information and stickers for students to take as a reminder of the message. Other vendors at the Safe Driving event included MADD, Bexar Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department and Y100 radio station. AT&T promoted its “IT CAN WAIT” campaign and Safe to Save invited students to download a new app on their phone which tracks driving patterns and gives you points for safe driving. These points can then be redeemed for free items at various locations. Papa Johns supported the Jaguar campus and their safe driving efforts by providing free pizza for volunteers. The Safe Driving event at Johnson specifically targets young drivers, but drivers of all ages all across the city are driving distracted, despite the certain risk and a possible $200 fine. “It’s not only students and kids my age who are driving distracted, it’s parents, grandparents,” said Johnson High School Smart Driving Club President Ella Easley. “You are not only putting yourself in danger, you are putting everyone else on the road in danger as well when you drive distracted. Officer Esquivel knows firsthand the truth behind these words. After surviving and recovering from the crash that almost took his life, he is back with the police department again serving his community. “What I went through was completely avoidable,” he stated. “I should not have had to go through what I went through. Just put the phone down, leave it alone and just drive, just pay attention to the road.” The Jaguar campus and the Smart Driving Club would like to thank all its vendors, volunteers and participants and the Johnson High School PTSA for their help during this annual event. All community involvement in getting out a safe driving message is much appreciated. A special thank you also to Papa Johns for always feeding the volunteers. If you would like information about the Johnson High School PTSA Smart Driving Club, please contact parent sponsor Melinda Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org. Johnson High School PTSA Smart Driving Club members encouraged students to sign a “Don’t Drive Distracted” pledge during their annual Safe Driving event. Johnson Hosts Annual Safe Driving Event Students used a driving simulator to experience the real difficulties of driving while distracted or impaired. Johnson students also wore “drunk goggles” experiencing how difficult it is to perform routine tasks while impaired.