By Debbie Hersman
Four years ago I met with some bright and motivated young people in Boy Scout Venturers Crew 125. I challenged them to take on a service project to promote transportation safety.
They have been impressing me ever since.
First, they held an annual “Safety Break” during Memorial Day weekend, giving away free coffee and food, along with educational materials promoting safe driving, to travelers at a Maryland rest area on I-95.
But this year, Crew 125, advised by the NTSB’s own Paula Sind-Prunier, really outdid themselves, and hopefully changed attitudes and lifelong behaviors among their peers.
During a recent gathering in Virginia, a regional group of 300 Venturers (a co-ed program of the Boy Scouts of America for youth ages 13-20) were charged with creating a hands-on activity.
Some crews brought a mini cave to crawl through. Others brought a climbing wall. Crew 125, with the help of the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) and the Century Council, set up a computerized driving simulator where teens could safely learn about the dangers of texting while driving—and a chance to use “beer goggles” to simulate alcohol impairment and how it affects driving skills. They also provided safety literature and set up a mock sobriety field test.
It proved both popular and powerfully educational. The line to try the simulator, according to Paula, stretched several hundred feet back to the dining hall.
Venturers tried to “best” each other, negotiating the virtual-reality driving course while trying to send a text message. Venturers understood why states have banned teens from using personal electronic devices like cell phones and texting devices while driving. They also learned that passing a field sobriety test requires your full focus and attention.
There were many “crashes,” but a simple reset of the computer put the car and driver back safely on the road. The Venturers understood that the consequences are very real when you are truly behind the wheel and you don’t get a reset.