What sounds like common sense — don’t text while driving — results too often in crashes, disabling injuries and death.
But to drive that point home to teens, sometimes you need a touch of LOL.
And that’s exactly what students at Mesa’s East Valley Institute of Technology got Tuesday when the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Auto Alliance — with help from the Second City improv troupe — gave a presentation on distracted driving.
During one skit by members of the comedy troupe from Chicago, a driving instructor told a student driver exactly what not to do, going through a list of distracted driving examples like texting, eating, talking on the phone and dancing.
"Now look for your iPod," she said with a straight face as the other actor reached animatedly behind his seat in search of an imaginary device.
Students laughed as the male actor was asked to apply makeup during the drive.
"This test does not discriminate on gender," she said when the driver gaped at her command.
And so he applied mascara, lipstick and blush in the imaginary rear-view mirror as the students chuckled.
In another skit, a game show host asked contestants where their hands should be at all times while driving.
"On your girlfriend’s leg," answered one contestant, while the auditorium roared with laughter. And while the real answer, "on the wheel," didn’t get as many laughs, there were a lot of nodding heads.
While the tone was humorous, the material conveyed implied serious consequences.
"Hundreds of teenagers are injured by distracted driving every year in Arizona," said Dr. John R. Tongue, AAOS president. "Looking at the size of this room, one of you could be injured by distracted driving."
Tongue told of a car crash from when he was a teenager. Another young driver crashed into his car on the passenger side, just minutes after Tongue had dropped off his friend.
"My friend could have died," he speculated. "As it was, I broke my back, had a face full of glass and had an arm injury."
Tongue was wearing a seatbelt at the time, something many people didn’t always do in the 1970s, especially young people.
It was a crash, he said, not an accident because when you drive, you make choices.
"As an orthopedic surgeon, I fix mostly fractures and we can help people out with those," he said. "But closed head trauma and spinal injuries can have lasting damage."
And while most young people may only recognize death as a horrific result of car crashes, it’s important to realize the impact of disability, Tongue said.
"There are 10 disabling injuries for every death," he said. "This is something you have a lot of control over. Remember to keep your hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, buckle up and avoid distractions."
No matter how routine driving becomes for you, pretend you are a pilot preparing for a flight, Tongue said. A pilot doesn’t eat or text while flying a plane.
"You’re going in a straight line on the freeway, but you’re texting," said Mike Speck, a Ford Driving Skills for Life lead driving instructor, adding that even texting while stopped at a light isn’t safe driving. "Just because the car isn’t moving doesn’t mean nothing is happening."
It’s a lesson that even parents need to learn.
In one skit, one actor lectured the other about her driving habits. The other actor checked her phone repeatedly, texting and setting down the phone intermittently.
"Okay Mom, it’s time to take me to cheerleading practice," the lecturer told the other actor as she finished up.
While students laughed, a troupe member reminded them that it’s not only teenagers who are guilty of distracted driving.
According to an AAOS study, 30- to 44-year-olds are the worst offenders of distracted driving.
As the assembly ended, the students clapped, cheered and whooped as the actors bowed. Styled with humor, it sounded like they listened to the message.
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