The highway patrolman flips the switch and the pickup starts to roll.
Suspended off the ground by hydraulic equipment, the truck spins horizontally as it models what would happen in a 17 mph wreck. The two crash dummies inside the truck, not strapped in by seats belts, slam about the cabin. Arms twist, legs crumble and heads crunch as they pinball inside.
Eventually, both dummies sprawl through the truck’s open windows and onto a patch of concrete with a deep thud. Some of the North Augusta High School students gathered around the display wince as the noise echoes. Others jump or scream.
It’s an image much more effective at displaying the potential costs of distracted driving than statistics and posters in school hallways. To raise awareness and “save young lives,” representatives from Vic Hawk Law Group and Aiken Driving Academy are visiting Augusta-area schools this week, organizing demonstrations and seminars to help students understand the risks of distracted driving just before prom night.
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 3,328 people were killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers in 2012.
“We want to show the teens why they cannot see the road while they are texting,” attorney Vic Hawk said in an e-mail. “It is a common misconception. When we text, our peripheral vision is naturally blurred or blacked out by our brain. When teens understand this is not something they can correct or accommodate, the teens are more likely to use safe alternatives to texting.”
The “Send Could be the End” campaign uses seminars, group activities and cooperates with law enforcement agencies to educate teenagers on how to stifle habits that could lead to distraction while driving.
“Promoting safe driving like this could save lives,” said Alan Miller, marketing representative for Aiken Driving Academy. “Seeing the dummy fly out of the truck like that really makes it easy to understand the risks.”
The representatives from the law firm and driving school also collect “no texting while driving” pledges from students attending their events. According to Christina Crowe, a marketing representative for Vic Hawk Law Group, “500 to 600” students have signed pledges this week.
“It’s a good sign that our message is getting out,” Crowe said. “So many deaths happen because of this issue. We want to make sure teens realize just how deadly this is.”
Tyler Bright, a 16 year-old North Augusta student, said personal experience had already taught him the importance of avoiding distractions while driving, and he was moved to sign a pledge after seeing the dummy rollover demonstration.
“I was in a wreck just like this, where my vehicle rolled over,” Bright said. “Watching this, it replayed in my mind. I pledged because I think it will save lives and prevent more accidents like that in the future.”
Tracy Lee, 17, signed a pledge so she can remain focused “on her future.”
“I don’t want to be a victim,” Lee said. “I want to go to college and make something of myself. It makes no sense to die because of something stupid like this.”
The campaign will be doing another presentation at Evans High School at 1 p.m. Thursday. For more information on the campaign, contact Crowe at (803) 331-6946.