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Demonstrations show teens danger of distracted driving

With all the fall colors glowing in the sun today, there were many alternatives to spending time at a teen safe-driving event.

But Heather Stone had reasons for taking her 15-year-old son, Greg, to the demonstrations at the Davis-Moore Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealership on East Kellogg.

"He's my baby, and I'm scared," Stone said, meaning she doesn't want her 15-year-old to become another grim statistic.

At the dealership, they saw anti-DUI demonstrations and a car roll-over simulator, and heard a trauma surgeon talk about the consequences of car crashes.

Stone said her son is "a good driver." Still, she said, "I worry about distractions." That's why she has a rule for him: He is not to use a cell phone while driving. If he is driving when she calls him, he has 10 minutes to pull over and call her.

"Because as a parent, how would I feel if I called him and he got in a wreck?" she said. "That would just kill me. I'm sure it's happened."

Nationwide, about 60 percent of teens admit to using cell phones while driving, said Anjay Khandelwal, a trauma and burn surgeon with Wichita Surgical Specialists, who spoke at today's event.

About 50 percent of teens send text messages while driving, he said.

"Just think twice" before doing something that could cause an accident, he said.

"You don't want to ruin your life."

Roughly 100 teens die each week nationwide from traffic accidents — which kill more teens than all other causes combined, Khandelwal said.

At another spot at the dealership, Wichita police Officer Michael Lloyd invited teens to don goggles that simulate the disorienting effects of drinking alcohol. The teens got to feel what it is like to try to walk a straight line heel to toe while drunk. They stumbled. One almost did the splits.

Ronda Lusk, a community health educator and safe children coordinator with Via Christi Health, handed out a sheet asking people to estimate how long it takes a car going certain speeds to stop on dry pavement once the driver sees a person crossing a road. Young drivers underestimate the distance it takes to stop, she said. For 20 mph, it's 47 feet; for 30 mph, 88 feet; for 40 mph, 149 feet.

Too many drivers also follow other vehicles too closely, said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Warner.

Warner used a device that rotates a vehicle to demonstrate what happens to a mannequin — without a seat belt — when the vehicle overturns.

In one demonstration, the mannequin slammed from one side of the interior to the other and against the roof. The mannequin often gets ejected in the first turn, he said.

Teen drivers are often involved in rollover accidents, Warner said. It could be because they tend to get distracted and because they lack driving experience, he said.

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