May is Youth Safety Month and at Austintown Fitch High School it meant a special campaign to bring awareness to students who drive or ride with friends.
A rally was held in the Fitch gymnasium with guest speakers and stations staffed by students from Fitch's Future Business Leaders of America.
The rally was held for each grade beginning with guest speakers talking about driving safety. Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Brown was among the speakers who told students of his early years as a trooper. Brown said he was sent to a crash in southwest Mahoning County that saw the death of three teens. He told students it was his job to check the dead bodies for identification, which is something he will never forget.
Photos By J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Fitch senior Kurt Hurdley tries his luck at texting while driving on the ODOT driving simulator. The screen had a small texting device in it and Hurdley had to keep his car on the road while answering texts that were coming in as he drove. The device showed how easy it is to get into an accident while texting behind the wheel.
''What I learned from that incident as a young 21-year-old trooper, was just how precious life is,' he said.
He told the Fitch students just how critical it is to devote full time attention to driving.
''It takes five seconds to text someone,'' he said. ''At 50 miles per hour, for five seconds, you'll travel the length of a football field.''
Susan Viars from Mahoning Safe Communities spoke on drinking and driving. She informed students of the ''Trace-back'' laws regarding alcohol and vehicle crashes. She said a person doesn't have to be behind the wheel to be charged.
''When there is an alcohol-related injury or death, it can be traced back to the source where the person was served,'' Viars said. ''The person who served the alcohol can be charged as well.''
Following the speakers, students took part in a number of stations designed to show what drinking or texting is like when driving.
At one station, students put on drunk-goggles simulating visual reflexes of a drunk person, including trying to shoot a basketball. Fitch junior Ben Devenport tried but had no luck at hitting the basket.
''I have never drank before, but I thought everything was just coming at me faster, he said.
Another station featured the Ohio Department of Transportation's new driving simulator. A student could select either texting or drinking and the simulator would adjust for it. Students then had to steer through a course and most ended up in a wreck.
Other stations included a cornhole game played with the drunk goggles, a race on a creeper while reading a texting card, and a table full of informational pamphlets.
Hosting the event was the Fitch Future Business Leaders of America students and adviser Tina Kinnick.
''This is our first time doing this,'' Kinnick said. ''The FBLA received one of 220 stipends from the Act Out Loud Campaign to fund it.''
She said the Act Out Loud campaign is designed to help and inform students about driving safely. The campaign includes giveaways for students being safety smart, a texting and driving pledge and a prom promise pledge. Prizes were given out at lunch during a trivia contest.