REC Teams with Nonprofit to Help Teens Drive Smart
One after another, the teens stepped into the driver’s seat. They cruised comfortably for a bit before sending a text while still rolling down the road. As they typed into their phone, their vehicle veered off the road, hitting traffic signs, parked cars and even pedestrians.
Nearby, their friends and classmates watched it all happen. Fortunately for all involved, the teen drivers were only in a simulated driving situation, complete with virtual reality goggles, and their friends watched the results on a nearby monitor. Drive Smart Virginia, a nonprofit traffic safety group, brought the demonstration to Louisa High School recently to show teens the dangers of texting or drinking while driving.
"We wouldn't be able to be here if it weren't for the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Power of Change grant," said Kristin Pettway with Drive Smart.
Nearly 17,000 members voluntarily allow REC to round up their electric payment to the nearest dollar, with that extra change contributed to The Power of Change. Dozens of local non-profit organizations – such as Drive Smart Virginia - have received funding from the program since its inception in 2005. This funding has made a significant impact on improving community services, economic development, education, and emergency response in REC's service territory. (See recent recipients.)
At Louisa High School, for instance, the students experienced not only the driving simulator but other hands-on activities. For instance, the teens wore goggles to simulate a blood-alcohol content of twice the legal limit as they tried to maneuver adult-size tricycles around traffic cones. The cones took a beating.
In addition, the Louisa Sheriff’s Office had the students attempt field sobriety tests. Wearing the goggles, the teens wobbled and nearly fell over as they tried to stand on one foot or walk a straight line. The students got the message.
“Crashing that simulator and running into the cones on the bike, I wouldn't want that to happen in an actual car,” said Louisa sophomore Abigail Grove. Driver’s education teacher Jerry Cutright said the activities brought to life lessons he tries to share with the students. "It makes the things we go over in the classroom a lot more concrete," Cutright said.
Besides Louisa, REC’s The Power of Change grant also has allowed Drive Smart to visit Culpeper and Eastern View high schools, and in the fall the group will visit Albemarle High School. “Our hope is to bring it back to the communities that REC serves,” Pettway said, “and help them be a little safer and save some lives on the roads.”