Distracted drivers pose real danger

Students will hear from son who lost his father
By: Chelsea Foster, Colfax Record Correspondent
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Colfax High School students will learn about the dangers of distracted driving at a school assembly on Dec. 2. Colfax seniors Haley Biles, Patrick Cabrera and Savannah Newman organized a charismatic presentation to show first-hand the real difficulty and devastating results of driving while texting or talking on a cell phone. Haley, who is leading the project with her fellow students, said she is passionate about educating people on the need to focus while driving, partially because she has seen the hurt it can cause. Haley’s’ former third-grade teacher, Carolyn Jones-Rogers, lost her husband, Jim Rogers, on Jan. 31, 2010 while he was riding a bicycle on Highway 174 and was struck and killed by a distracted driver. “With everything Mrs. Jones has been through with her husband dying, this is a great way that I can help,” Haley said. Jones-Rogers, who lives in Chicago Park and teaches third grade at Sierra Hills Elementary in Meadow Vista, said that her experience has given her a desire to educate people about distracted driving in honor of her husband’s memory. Her son, Nate Rogers, who is a senior at Bitney College Prep High School in Grass Valley, is also helping with the assemblies. “Jim’s death was horrible. I think that’s why Nate and I wanted to do this, to honor Jim. A lot of people, after they lose someone, they want to do something in that person’s honor,” Jones-Rogers said. “It feels good to give back to the community with this kind of education, because they helped us a lot when Jim was killed.” Jones-Rogers helped students at Nevada Union High School put on an assembly last year and hopes to spread the word through all the local high schools. The student-run assembly at Colfax High School will feature a slide show, videos on distracted driving, student interaction and speeches by Patrick, Savannah and Nate. “At the assembly, my son will get up and talk about how distracted driving changed his life forever,” Jones-Rogers said. “And one of the most exciting things about this assembly is that we did our own experiments to get our own statistics. We went to 49er Fun Park and had students drive go-carts while texting or talking on the phone. The results are pretty amazing.” Haley agreed that the experiments will be very eye-opening for her peers. “We did not expect the results that we got. Those go-carts were so difficult to control when distracted. If a go-cart was that hard, I can just imagine what it would be like in a car,” Haley said. The statistics from the experiments were overwhelming. Four high school student participants made five errors – hitting a cone, an obstacle or the side of the track – while driving without distractions, but 20 errors while talking on cell phones and 36 errors while texting, Jones-Rogers said. The experiment was videotaped, and the drivers were interviewed before and after. Patrick, who helped edit the video footage and will speak at the assembly, said that the impact of the experiment is huge. “Some of the video footage we have of the experiment we did is pretty powerful. I know when I first watched it, I was shocked at just how easy it would be to do so much damage,” Cabrera said. “We are always told the laws about driving, but this assembly expresses the message in a different way that will really make an impact. I'm excited to see the effects of this on my fellow students.” Jones-Rogers has helped the students coordinate the assembly, but she only runs the photo presentation onstage. She will not speak, preferring that the students address their peers directly. “It’s all students up there, which I think is good. I think kids often listen to each other more than to adults. We all tend to listen to our peers,” she said. Jones-Rogers said she hopes that students will leave the assembly with a full understanding of the effects that talking or texting can have on their brains while they drive. “The woman who hit Jim didn’t mean to hit him. She just didn’t see him,” Jones-Rogers said. “A lot of people don’t realize that when you are distracted, your brain can choose to not see something. That’s why we need to educate people about this.” Patrick said he is excited to see the lasting impact this makes on students. “After the assembly, we're going to talk together as a school about what we can do to change things,” he said. “We're going to give kids the opportunity to sign a pledge to not drive distracted.” Haley also wants her peers to come away with an understanding of the gravity of driving carelessly. “I’m hoping that people who drive will be warned that as much as they think it’s easy to text and drive, it’s a big distraction and can cause so much damage. It’s not worth it,” she said. -------------------------- DISTRACTED DRIVING ASSEMBLY What: Presentation about difficulty and perils of driving while texting or talking on a cell phone When: 10:54 a.m. and 12:17 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 Where: Colfax High School, 24995 Ben Taylor Road Open to: Colfax High School parents and guardians Call: School office, 346-2284