NEW PARIS — National Trail was the last Preble County school district to host an OVI and Texting and Driving Course this school year. The course was taught on Tuesday, Oct. 8 and Wednesday, Oct. 9, by National Trail School Resource Officer (SRO) Austin Snowden.
Students were given two different tasks: in one; they had to drive a golf cart while texting “I’m on my way,” in the other; they had to drive a path while wearing goggles that simulate impairment. Both paths were lined with cones they had to avoid. For every cone a student hit, it represented a person killed by reckless driving. The course was meant to teach students not to drive while distracted or under the influence.
A similar course was previously held at Preble Shawnee, Twin Valley Local Community, and Eaton Community Schools. Tri-County North was not able to schedule a course for this year, but hopes to participate in future years.
This is the first year a course like this has been taught at any Preble County school district. The idea came from Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson and Chief Deputy Mike Spitler, who then reached out to district administration and the appropriate departments.
Every school district which held the course followed the same basic parameters, but certain details were left up to the specific SRO. National Trail Local School District allowed every high school student to watch the training, not just those with driver licenses. However, only students with permits or driver licenses were permitted to drive the golf cart.
“The students who don’t have licenses are going to eventually have licenses. Eventually, they’re going to experience the dangers of the road way. We want to make sure that we’re getting that message across early, so when they do step into the driver’s seat, they understand the risks of the roadway,” Deputy Snowden said.
“This is a machine and something that is very dangerous. The parents can only do so much, as far as letting their child go in a vehicle. As a school district and a School Resource Officer, I have to be able to provide that same knowledge and material to them. At another level, I feel like this is taking it a step higher to show them, this is putting you in almost a real life scenario.”
Snowden rode along with the students texting and driving, while Detective Shane Hatfield rode along with the students wearing the OVI goggles.
National Trail’s training also featured Laura Cruea with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who shared statistics and part of her own story.
Cruea wasn’t the only party involved who was connected personally to the subject matter. Deputy Snowden himself has lost a friend in an accident.
“This really hits home for a lot of people. Specifically, it hits home for me too, because I wear 778 on my wrist every day symbolizing one of my friends and her unit number from a loss. Sleep deprivation was part of that and being on a phone was a whole separate issue with that, an over-correction,” he said.
“This definitely touches me a lot, so I’m very passionate about this specifically. It doesn’t mean I take away from anything else I teach the kids, but this specifically really touches with me. I know the school district needs something like this, because the kids will see it on the news and see the risk factors. We can only do so many lectures, it is time for us to do some hands-on stuff that shows them personally the dangers we’re dealing with on a daily basis.”
Snowden added, he wants this training to be fun, but he also wants them to learn the risk factors of driving distracted or impaired.
“We’re having a good time with it, but this is why we’re doing it. I want them to understand this is not some toy that we’re going to be playing with when you get your license,” he said. “This is going to give students an idea of the risk factors of texting and driving, making them aware of even in this short distance of 130 feet and going roughly 15 mph at max, even texting on a golf cart, you are still unable to stay on path and you are still hitting a cone.
“We’re telling them, this could be somebody checking mail, this could simply be the road way and you could cause a crash. It serves a really good purpose and we like that we’re able to get everybody involved – even the kids without driver licenses.”
This will not be the only year this training is held within the Preble County schools.
“This is the first year we’ve done this training and it has been extremely successful,” Deputy Snowden said. “Every year after this we plan on doing this course — that is how important this is to us. This is extremely important to us.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH