Event teaches safe driving

Published 7:53 am Saturday, January 21, 2012

Even at the relatively safe speed on 35 miles per hour, it’s possible to be seriously injured or killed in an automobile accident.

That’s the message that Trooper Charles Dysart delivered to the teens and parents who gathered at Cattleman Park Friday night for the Second Annual Teen Driving Event.

The event was organized by Jennifer C. Garrett, Jamie Scarbrough and other parents who feel compelled to bring the issue of teenage injuries and deaths on the highways to the forefront.

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Garrett said even one teenager whose life is tragically cut short on the highways is one too many.

“We want to make teens and parents more aware of the dangers on the highways and how accidents, injuries and deaths can be prevent,” Garrett said.

Dysart talked to the teens in a way they could understand and in a way that he hoped got through.

“Driving is one of the most dangerous tasks you can perform,” he said. “Teenagers make up the least safe group on the highway. Teenagers are dying on the highways mainly because of three things – not wearing seat belts, alcohol and drugs and distracted driving.”

Dysart stressed the importance of wearing seatbelts.

“It’s the law in Alabama that every driver and front seat passenger wear a seat belt,” he said. “Seat belts prevent injuries and they save lives.

“At 35 miles an hour, your body is like a ball in a pinball machine. It bangs and bounces off everything that it hits, causing injuries and even death.”

Dysart recounted an accident he worked where the passenger, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was bashed around the car and finally ejected through the driver’s side window.

“As he was thrown out the window, his body ripped the driver’s head off his body,” he said. “That’s the force that a body exerts when it is being bounced around like a ball in a pinball machine.”

The State Trooper warned the audience that over the counter prescription drugs like Advil and Tylenol, when not take according to direction, can cause drowsiness and, therefore, accidents.

“If you are involved in an accident under those conditions, you could be charged with driving under the influence,” he said.

Dysart said anything that keeps a driver’s attention away from driving is distracted driving.

“That can be anything from putting in a CD to reading,” he said. “Keep your eyes and attention on the road at all times.”

Dysart demonstrated the vehicle simulator that shows the difference between wearing a seatbelt and not.

The dummies were secure in their seats after being tossed around the cab when they were wearing seatbelt. When they were not, they were slung around the cab and through the window.

“That’s the difference a seatbelt makes,” Dysart said.

Jonah McWaters, who was injured in a vehicle accident when he was in high school at Pike Liberal Arts, was the guest speaker for the Teen Driving Event.

The eighth anniversary of McWaters’ accident is on Jan. 23.

“I was distracted,” McWaters said. “I was on the way to school and had my mind on the ballgame that afternoon. I looked away and, when I looked back up, I was in the ditch. I overcorrected, flipped, went back in the ditch and then hit a telephone pole.

“When the accident was happening, it was like it was in slow motion. I didn’t know that I was hurt so severely but I knew that I couldn’t move. I had to wait until someone came along to help me. I prayed to God that it was only a dream. That I would wake up. But it was not a dream.”

McWaters suffered a broken back, broken ribs and a punctured lung and spleen. He went through a year of seemingly unbearable pain but his faith in God, the skill of the doctors and his family and friends pulled him through.

Today, McWaters, who is a paraplegic, is looking toward his future with the confidence that he can do God’s will for him.

“I wouldn’t trade this for anything because it has brought me closer to God and I know that He has a plan for me,” he said. “I wake up every day and thank God for the day. I value every moment of my life and hope that by sharing the Word, I can inspire others.”