Students learn about driving dangers

SIMULATOR — Jordan Wallace, a junior at Steubenville High School, takes the wheel in a driving simulator at the high school on Tuesday. The simulator shows what it is like to drive under the influence, and participants eventually have an accident. The simulator was used in conjunction with an assembly featuring speakers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office and juvenile court. -- Mark Law

STEUBENVILLE — Steubenville High School students heard on Tuesday about the dangers of distracted driving, driving under the influence and not wearing a safety belt.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office and juvenile court participated in the presentation during an assembly in the auditorium.

Trooper Gregory Scalley said 90 percent of teen vehicle fatalities are the fault of the teen driver. He emphasized that teen drivers need to make the right choices, including not texting while driving, staying alert and driving sober.

Scalley added that teens have to look out for each of their friends if they are at a party where alcohol is being consumed, and must not let an intoxicated driver get behind the wheel.

Accidents involving teen drivers increase this time of the year, with prom season and graduation and related parties on the horizon, he noted. He said the legal blood-alcohol limit for adults is 0.08, while the limit for juveniles is 0.02. He added that depending on the teen’s weight, that could amount to one or two beers.

While most of the students admitted to spending a lot of time on their cell phones, only a few said they used their cell phone while driving. Scalley emphasized that the teens need to pull over to the side of the road when they must use their phones. Distracted driving can include adjusting the radio or reaching down to pick up something that fell.

Scalley told the students that safety belts save lives, and most in the audience admitted to using a safety belt, with about one-third of them saying they had been in a vehicle crash.

Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said discussions like those at the assembly concerning the risks of drinking and driving and using a cell phone while driving are needed. She noted a driving under the influence conviction could impact a teen’s ability to get a job, go to college or keep a driver’s license.

“You don’t want it to impact your life because of a split-second decision. Every year around this time there is a fatality (involving a student). Other students are forever impacted by a classmate’s death. Make the best decisions you can make,” she said.

Juvenile court Magistrate Frank Noble Jr. explained how the court handles teen OVI cases. He said a teen convicted of OVI in juvenile court will lose his or her license for at least six months.

“You want your freedom when you turn 16, but it could be gone in the blink of an eye. You will have to balance how to get to events and activities and school with no license,” he said.

A teen drunk driver will have to go through a driver-intervention program, where they learn about the dangers of such actions. Then there are the financial consequences, including fines, court costs, attorney fees and an increase in insurance rates, Noble said. An offender also will have to perform 40 hours of community service.

He said teen drivers who are under the influence of marijuana and other drugs could be placed in drug court for a minimum of nine months.

The high school students also had the chance to get behind the wheel of a simulator showing how hard it is to drive under the influence. The simulator slows the reaction time of the driver, resulting in an accident.

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