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Teens and distracted driving

SEATTLE — Distracted driving imperils everyone on the road, especially teen drivers. Schools and teachers across the Puget Sound hope life lessons will help steer kids away from the dangerous practice.

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SEATTLE — For the next two weeks, officers will be enforcing seatbelt and distracted driving violations. Extra officers will be patrolling Washington roadways from May 20-June 2.

SeattleLorrie Cole abides by the rules of the road. She always wears her seatbelt, checks her mirrors and when driving she never talks or texts.

“I don’t know how to text. And, I’m the last person on Earth that has said that.”

She thinks it’s great that cops all over Washington will be cracking down on seatbelt violations and distracted drivers for the next two weeks.

Trooper Eric Goold will be one of several extra patrol officers focusing on seatbelts and cell phones.

“When you text or you’re distracted while driving down the roadway, it doesn’t take much in that split second to cause a collision where someone gets seriously hurt,” Goold said.

Brianna Thornberry has a 14-year-old about to hit the open road. She doesn’t touch her phone behind the wheel and she hopes her daughter gets the message.

“I’m hoping she’ll never drive,” Thornberry joked. “I don’t want her to drive at all. It’s just so scary  but I’m absolutely leading by example.”

Other parents tell a little white lie to get their kids to listen.

“I used to tease my children when they were little the car won’t go into drive until your seatbelt is on. They believed me,” Valorie Ferrucci chuckled. “Yes, I do definitely use my seatbelt.”

Despite this motherly advice, there are still rule-breakers out there. In just two weeks of increased enforcement last year, Washington officers issued more than 4,000 tickets for seatbelts and cell phones. You can bet this year, straight-laced Lorrie won’t get one of them.

“Anything can happen, and you over-correct and you might hurt someone plus yourself,” she warns.

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. – At one local high school, officials are using the excitement of prom and graduation to teach a lesson that might save lives.

Using the football field at Mount Si High School as a test course designed to stress the dangers of distracted driving, students were encouraged to hop behind the wheel of a golf cart and try to send a text or don beer goggles while driving on the simulated course. The program is part of “Think and Drive Week” that the school has run for the past five years.  School officials and state troopers hope the distracted driving course, and its lessons, would go a long way in keeping disengaged students off the road.

“It happens all day long, in bumper-to-bumper traffic and at high speeds, it’s killing people,” Trooper Julie Judson said.

It’s not just Mount Si High that benefits from the program — WSP makes visits to schools throughout the area.

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Mount Si graduate Rachel McNaul was hit by a DUI driver on Interstate 90 in 2009. She broke 20 bones and spent a month at Harborview Medical Center recovering from her injuries. Now a teacher at Mount Si, McNaul uses her experience to educate students as to the dangers of distracted driving.

“I need to let them know how the consequences of the actions you make could affect you,” McNaul said.

SNOQUALMIE — It’s the week before prom at Mt. Si High School and seniors are getting a special delivery — a personalized letter from a fifth grader.

pencilandpaper“Mine says ‘It’s your night to shine, but remember to never drink and drive because it’s not safe and no one wants you to get hurt’,” Grace Currie said.

The letters are part of the school’s Prom Pals program — the letter writing campaign began in the Snoqualmie Valley School District 15 years ago and these kids said it does work.

“You’ve got younger kids looking up to you as being role models as high schoolers and maintaining good behavior is important,” Kelby Kilburn said.

Fifth grader Isabella Mariani wrote one of this spring’s most powerful letters.

“Think of the consequences,” Mariani wrote. “You could be arrested for underage drinking. You might want to drive but because you’re drunk, you could get in a serious car accident.”

The hope is these 10- and 11-year-old kids might be able to get through to the senior what parents and teachers can’t.

“I hope she takes it and looks at it and if she was thinking about it, changes her mind and really thinks about it — say, ‘This could happen and I really shouldn’t do it’,” Mariani said.

Mt. Si’s principal, John Belcher, said he feels this program is an invaluable part of keeping the students safe.

“I think those are really positive things for adolescents to reflect on. To think about the bigger picture that now they have a fifth grader rooting for them and now they have to do the right thing,” Belcher said.

One student from each of the district’s five elementary schools was chosen as having a winning letter. As a celebration, they will get to invite a friend and go with a group of seniors in a limo to Game Works in early June.

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