Students in Carbondale challenged to hang up and drive |

Students in Carbondale challenged to hang up and drive

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentCarbondale firefighters respond to a mock rollover accident Friday in the parking lot of Roaring Fork High School. The dramatization depicted a crash caused by a teen driver being distracted by a text message while driving. Agencies participating in the educational event were Carbondale and Rural Fire District, Basalt Fire District, Carbondale Police, Garfield County Sheriff's Department, Colorado State Patrol and the Garfield County Coroner's Office.

CARBONDALE – The mock fatal accident scene outside Roaring Fork High School Friday morning wasn’t a lot different than past displays of lights and sirens and bloodied bodies, all attempting to teach teenage drivers to be careful behind the wheel.

Instead of focusing on drinking and driving, which is the usual pre-prom message, this event sought to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving – in particular, using a cell phone to text while driving.

Friday’s dramatization, sponsored by area fire and police agencies, depicted a distracted teen driver who wrecked with his carload of friends while texting and driving. One of his passengers died, and another was paralyzed for life.

A Colorado law passed in 2009 makes it illegal for drivers under age 18 to even talk on a cell phone while driving. The new law also prohibits motorists of any age from sending or reading a text message while driving.

Fatal accidents resulting from the use of cell phones or anything causing a driver to be distracted can lead to a felony charge of vehicular homicide.

April is National Distracted Drivers Awareness Month. While cell phones are an obvious distraction, even eating while driving or changing the radio station or the song on an MP3 player can distract a driver just long enough to cause an accident.

The Colorado State Patrol reports that distracted driving is the cause of one in every five crashes, and led to 40 fatal accidents in Colorado in 2010.

“We all know the dangers of drinking or drugging and driving,” Roaring Fork High School Principal Cliff Colia said to students, who gathered in the auditorium after the mock accident.

“Anything that takes your mind off what you’re doing when you’re behind the wheel can have great consequences for you and others,” he said.

Students watched the video, “The Last Text,” which told the stories of young people who have been killed or severely injured as a result of accidents involving a driver who was texting and driving.

“Four little letters, ‘yeah,’ that’s what killed my sister,” said the sibling in the video, who had sent the message that resulted in her sister’s fatal accident.

Carbondale Police Officer Drake Rooks was the victim in an accident involving a distracted driver in Fruita last summer just before he joined the Carbondale Police force. He lost his foot and part of his lower leg as a result, and now has to use a prosthetic.

“You really need to stop and think about it and what kind of damage it can cause a person,” Rooks said in addressing the students. “What I’m going through is just one example. It’s not only your life, but other peoples’ lives when you make that choice.”