Berlin teens experience distracted driving as part of AAA safety event

Berlin teens experience distracted driving as part of AAA safety event


BERLIN — Teens at Berlin High School learned the impact of texting while driving during a AAA safe driving event this week.

“It was kind of hard around the curves because I couldn’t really use two hands to turn,” said McKenna Naughton, a junior at Berlin High School.

On Wednesday, Naughton drove through the high school parking lot with a AAA driving school instructor while attempting to text. She ran over a cone in the parking lot while looking at a text from her friend in the back seat.

“We’re trying to point out the distractions in cars,” said Chuck Wusterbarth, manager for the AAA driving school. “They’re going through the courses to see what it’s like to text and drive.”

The AAA driving school program partnered up with the high school last spring to promote safe driving. Wednesday’s event was the first in Berlin.

“It’s a population of inexperienced drivers,” said Officer Steven Kostka, the high school’s resource officer.

He said there is about one crash a month in the school parking lot alone.

According to AAA, teen drivers crash motor vehicles four times more often than adult drivers. Crashes are the leading cause of death among drivers ages 16 to 20 years old. More than 5,600 teens die each year as a result of crashes.

“To let them experience this in a controlled environment is great,” Kostka said of the event.

Students were also able to sit in a tractor-trailer to understand blind spots and what it looks like to a truck driver. “There’s always distracted drivers on the highway,” said Roland Bolduc, a truck driver for Fed Ex. “That’s kind of the message they’re getting out today.”

Tim Hollister attended the events, discussed driving safety and shared his story of losing his teenage son in a crash. “Distracted driving crashes are on the rise, fatalities are on the rise,” said Officer Ryan Gould.

The National Highway Safety Administration reports the number of drivers ages 16 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes increased by more than 3 percent since 2015. The number of young drivers who died in fatal crashes increased by 0.1 percent since 2015.

“This isn’t just about driving it’s about safe driving, it’s about fatalities,” said Wusterbarth. “It’s about getting the kids to understand that the reason to be on the road and the issues on the road extend far beyond fast driving.” 203-317-2448 Twitter: @KusReporter

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