Teens Take Driver's Seat To Promote Road Safety

The 18th annual Transportation Safety Conference kicked off Tuesday with teenagers taking the driver

Students warn of the dangers of drunk driving in a promotional video featured at the KDOT Transportation Safety Conference.

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The 18th annual Transportation Safety Conference kicked off Tuesday with teenagers taking the driver's seat.

High school students showed a video they created and enacted to an audience of more than 450 attendees packing the Capitol Plaza Hotel. The video featured scenes all too common around prom time: Students taking to drivers' seats after a night of partying and drinking.

Students from the SAFE Council of Rossville High School used humor to drive home the message that driving drunk, distracted or without a seatbelt can be deadly.

The message hit close to home for him, said Caleb Falk, a sophomore who acted as the voice of reason in the promotional video.

"I actually know someone who got into a car accident and rolled their vehicle a couple of times," Falk said. "They were wearing their seatbelt and they ended up living because of it," he said. That event motivated him to join his school's SAFE Council and promote safe driving habits.

SAFE, which stands for Seatbelts Are For Everyone, is a unique program to the State of Kansas sponsored by the Department of Transportation.

More than 120 students from across Kansas joined local law enforcement, city and county officials at the conference where they shared road safety lessons.

Students say they have a unique responsibility to reach their peers.

"My goal is to reach the kids our age. We have different senses of humor, we have different mental capacities. Doing this, that's what I had in mind when I was editing the video," said Darria Dennison, a Rossville sophomore who took the lead in producing and editing the video.

The conference also featured a simulator that lets drivers know just how dangerous it is to text while driving.

This reporter took the test, texting "Don't text while driving," and promptly drove the simulator off the virtual cliff.

"It gives [teenagers] a good demonstration on how easy it is to loose control when they're texting and driving at the same time," Jeff Thompson, a captain with America's Road Team, an association of professional truck drivers, said.

"Some of the reactions of the teenagers is amazing," Thompson said of those who have driven on the simulator." They understand more of how important it is not to do it and how easy it is to have an accident while you're doing that." he said.

The SAFE Council program is present on 80 campuses across Kansas and their messages reached 40,000 high school students this school year.

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