Michiana school taking part in statewide driving safety campaign

NILES, Mich. –Brandywine High School students are educating their peers about safe driving practices. It is all part of a state-wide program called “Strive 4 A Safer Drive."

Since, it is a student-led campaign, students chose three traffic safety areas they wanted to focus their campaign on, which are distracted driving, impaired driving, and speeding. And they will hold three events throughout the year.

“Our first one, is coming up here soon. we’re going to talk to kindergarten through second graders and we’re going to talk to them about wearing their seat belts and doing the things they can do,” Connor Sobecki, a senior at Brandywine High School said.

Sobecki, a Brandywine High School senior said by being part of this program he’s more involved in school. Plus, he’s helping to raise awareness about the importance of safe driving, which he hopes can save lives.

The leading cause of teen deaths is car crashes, according to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. In fact, in 2018 nearly 2,500 teens between the ages of 13 and 19 years old died in car accidents.

The “Strive 4 A Safer Drive” program, aims to reduce traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities by educating inexperienced drivers. Only 38 Michigan schools were selected for the statewide initiative-, and Brandywine is the only high school in Berrien County participating. So far, 15 students have signed up to educate their classmates and community, and throughout the year, they’ll be going to the district’s elementary schools with skits and presentations on safe driving practices. They’re also creating posters and signs with traffic safety statistics, and driving facts that will be hung up around the school.

For junior Isaac Martinez, he said he hopes that his classmates consider the risks of distracted driving because he believes it’s a problem everywhere.

“We hope to encourage teens to be safer on the roads, take into play that their lives are very important, “Martinez said.

Experts say sometimes taking your eyes off the road for a single second, can lead to a dangerous situation that could have been avoided.

“Distracted driving can be a series of things, whether it's looking back in the back seat while you’re driving, being distracted taking your eyes off the road while you’re driving, texting and driving. Maybe moving something in the front seat, getting something out of the glove box, or just talking. Simple talking or even changing the radio station, looking down,” Deputy McGaffigan the Brandywine High School Resource Officer said.

Teen drivers are responsible for the highest rate of traffic accidents. ABC57 reached out to Berrien County Sheriff’s Department to see how many accidents Berrien County has seen in the past year. To put the problem in perspective. However, keep in mind, these statistics are reflective of all reports, not just the ones involving teens.

From January 2021 to December 31, 2021, there were 4,374 crashes, with 22 of them being deadly. Out of that total number, 169 involved alcohol, 44 were a result of drug-impaired driving. 595 of them involved young drivers ages 15 to 20 years old.

“If we can get those numbers down, through this campaign our goal will be met,” Deputy McGaffigan said.

These students are just getting started with their campaign, and they are still recruiting more people. If you want to take part contact Deputy McGaffigan at Brandywine High School for more information. 

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