Lessons from the Young on Distracted Driving

By Bill Diamond

Being in the legislature brings a lot of unexpected opportunities. Over the last few weeks, I have been enjoying one of these.

In January, I was contacted by Zac Stearn and Matthew Ingalls, two seniors at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale, and asked to help them out with their “Capstone” project by being their mentor. They had decided to approach me because of my work with distracted driving legislation. I have been working with them ever since, and I have been very impressed.

Every senior at Hall-Dale High School has to complete a major independent project, the “Capstone,” as a requirement for graduation. Zac and Matt were very concerned about behavior they had witnessed among their friends concerning distracted driving, and decided to make this the subject of their capstone. Rather than just do a research project documenting the dangers of distracted driving, which was where they started, they decided they could, and should, do more.

These enterprising youngsters knew that teens are often the most effective teachers of other teens, especially concerning personal behavior. Using that knowledge, they have developed a Distracted Driver Awareness Program called “It Can Wait.” The amount of work and energy they have poured into this is very impressive. They thoroughly researched the issue, and put together a slideshow of statistics and facts, which is fun and engaging. Throughout the presentation, they tell stories of real young people whose lives were ended or drastically altered because of distracted driving. They end it with a very moving video that was prepared in the United Kingdom, in conjunction with their ban on texting and driving. The whole presentation is very well done, at times humorous, at others, very sad, but always interesting. It even contains a sample contract for teens to sign, promising not to engage in distracting behavior while driving.

They don’t see this as a one-time thing that depends on them either. They feel it should continue long after they graduate. They want to see it become part of the curriculum in Maine, both for the driver’s ed program and for the Maine Department of Education’s Wellness Standards. They envision teams of young people throughout the state trained to present the program.

They have gotten attention throughout the state and even across the country for their program, with interest from Rhode Island, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. Here in Maine, they are working with Hall-Dale and nearby Maranacook  High School, and they recently made a presentation to the legislature’s Transportation Committee.

These two young men have been a real pleasure to work with, and if their work on this project is any indication, they have great futures ahead of them.

If you have any thoughts on this, or if there is anything else I can do for you at the State House, please call me at my office at 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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