H-SANTA MARIA

Apr 5, 2011 9:42 PM by Ariel Wesler

Your Family: Teens experience dangers of distracted driving

In tonight's Your Family segment, we're getting an up close look at the real dangers behind texting while driving.

Local law enforcement set up a driving course today at St. Joseph High School in Santa Maria. The kids had to try avoiding the cones while answering text messages. It's all part of a two day program at the school to highlight the dangers of distracted driving.

You don't want to try this at home. The CHP and Santa Maria Police Department set up a driving course and then had students at St. Joseph High School send text messages while trying to avoid the cones.

"It's so much harder to text and drive and it's hard to pay attention to where you're going," said 11th Grader Alyssa Suarez. "I hit like 20 cones right now. You can't not hit a cone."

Officers say that's the point. They see car crashes every day caused by distracted drivers. No matter which student was behind the wheel, it happened repeatedly.

"It's kind of a big eye opener because that's not really fake. You can't really fake that, said 12th Grader Connor Shanahan.

Officers say there are no tricks. It's a standard 12-foot-wide lane.

"Every cone you knock over, you just hit somebody," said Officer Ronnie Murillo with the Santa Maria Police Department.

"The CHP said I knocked over more than 60," said 11th Grader Rose Littlefair

At first, officers asked the students to rank their ability to text and drive.

"They said, 'Oh I'm a 10 or Oh I'm a 9.' Now after doing this, they're like 'I'm a 3 or a 4,' so they're seeing the difference," Murillo said.

A difference that could save lives on the real roadways.

The dangers hit close to home for St. Joseph High School. Almost two years ago, Eric Okerblom, a former student was killed by a distracted driver while he was on his bike. His face and story are now on the main page of the U.S. Department of Transportation website. His mother says she eventually hopes to outlaw any kind of distraction on the roads.

If you'd like to hear Eric's story and get more information on the risks of distracted driving, click here.

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