Impaired and distracted driving is a serious problem for every age group but it’s especially problematic for inexperienced teen drivers. To reach them with the safe driving message, it’s important to go the extra mile. And for Robin Bennett of Lexlee’s Kids in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that means incorporating the Simulated Impaired Driving Experience (SIDNE®) into Ready Set Drive, which is the Lexlee’s Kids young driver safety program.
Lexlee’s Kids is a nonprofit organization that specializes in safety issues for children ages birth to 18. In addition to programs like their Buckle Boogie-child passenger safety program, administered by nationally certified technicians, and their Stroll into Safety-bike and pedestrian safety program, the organization has an in-depth driver safety program called Ready Set Drive created specifically for young drivers.
The multi-component program is now six years old, according to Bennett, who is the community outreach coordinator for Lexlee’s Kids. “We go into driving schools and high schools with an engaging classroom presentation on the first day,” she says. “The second portion is hands-on and simulation based.”
Component 1: Classroom Presentation
On the first day, students take a pretest, which Bennett says she refers to as a “pre-survey” to gain insight into the current knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of the students related to the issues of impaired and distracted driving. She gathers data for the organization that is used later to prove how much student’s have learned through the Ready Set Drive program and gather behavior based information. Questions focus on issues such as the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, the chances of survival in a crash with a drunk or distracted driver and actual behaviors taking place in vehicles.
Bennett then moves on to a PowerPoint presentation. This covers issues such as the top ten distractions while driving, including visual, manual, cognitive and auditory distractions. She also addresses the issues and the potential dangers of speeding and reckless driving. Each section of the presentation is accompanied by a video to drive home the points she makes during the presentation.
Activities such as a traffic safety game show and alcohol impairment simulation goggles are also included in the classroom portion of the program.
Then it’s time to retake the test they started with.
“Typically nine out of 10 answers may change,” Bennett reveals.
These first steps build a foundation for realization in the students. This is especially important because adolescents don’t think the way adults do. Often, they believe “it can’t happen to me,” a belief that’s a roadblock to safety training.
“They get so complacent,” Bennett says, confirming that students often think they’re invincible or more skilled than they actually are. The survey and SIDNE® experience are two ways to counter that.” Activities such as a traffic safety game show and alcohol impairment simulation goggles are also included in the classroom portion of the program. Positive reinforcement and rewards are also a hit with participating students!
Component 2: SIDNE® in Action
Part two starts with a quick recap of part one’s information. Then Bennett carefully presents her instructions for using SIDNE® and students have the chance to experience what they learned during the classroom portion of the program.
Bennett says that their goal during simulation is for every student to experience SIDNE®, either as the passenger and/or as the driver.
Students driving or riding as a passenger in SIDNE® have an eye-opening experience.
Students driving or riding as a passenger in SIDNE® have an eye-opening experience, according to Bennett. “When they realize they can’t control SIDNE® or the risky choice they’ve made to ride with an impaired driver, they are shocked.”
For example, one student said, “Oh my God, I’m never driving again!” because she was so overwhelmed by the realization that she actually couldn’t control the wheel when she was distracted or intoxicated. Bennett used her comment to start a conversation about how to think about and plan ahead for various situations.
“The goal is to get them to think about safety,” she says. “To stop, think, and understand, not scare them to death.”
“Here at Lexlee’s Kids we enjoy the celebration of young driver’s earning the opportunity to drive and doing so safely. We want to empower students and equip them with resources and education to make positive and responsible decisions,” said Crystal Pichon, Executive Director of Lexlee’s Kids & Creator of the Ready Set Drive Program. Pichon also states, “Different people learn in different ways; some in a classroom, some by video, and some by actually doing. The Ready Set Drive Program is designed to reach all different learning types and has a positive personality attached to it. Our results have been great, knowledge gain has increased, and behaviors have been changed for the better. Our program is data driven, and it works. SIDNE® only adds to the success of the program!”
Driving home the point
Bennett uses local news items to drive home her points even deeper. Some students, she says, still persist in declaring it couldn’t happen to them. Using area crashes as examples tells them the truth: They don’t drive alone on the street, so it’s vital to drive defensively. Students are reminded that a crash may not be their fault, but the fault of another driver. Being a safe driver will only decrease their chances of being involved in a crash, and that requires concentration and freedom from distractions.
Many of the students take home the safe driving message to parents who drink and drive or drive with distractions. Bennett is excited by the impact the teens can have on others, reaching adults and whole families with the program’s safety messages.
In 2015, the program reached just under 5,500 students in the four Louisiana parishes it serves. Bennett plans to move the program into additional parishes, and both middle schools and postsecondary schools later this year.
SIDNE® has only been included in the program since last year, and Bennett says it’s a wonderful enhancement to the program.“This generation is so hands-on,” she says. “SIDNE® definitely adds to the wow factor of the Ready Set Drive Program.”
For more information on Lexlee’s Kids, visit www.lexleeskids.org/.