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Deadly distractions

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:02 PM

A campaign called Bucs Above Distractions kicked off this week at Grand Haven High School as staff and students returned from the holiday break.

The campaign is being funded by a $2,000 grant from the state's Strive for a Safer Drive. It was received by GHTV and Performing Arts Center coordinator Dennis Threadgill and high school senior Michael Norman.

Threadgill said the campaign will start at the high school and spread throughout the community by the end of February.

“It’s (about) having your eyes on the road at all times,” he said.

Traffic signs and a blinking traffic signal greet students and visitors as they enter the high school’s rotunda. Threadgill said they worked with the City of Grand Haven and Ottawa County staffs to obtain signs no longer in use and refashioned them for the campaign.

Threadgill said they’ve also received other in-kind donations from the community.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in a simulated distracted driving course as part of the campaign. The simulator replicates an object jumping out in front of them as they receive a text message while driving.

“We wanted to give them the feelings that, if they’re driving distracted, this is what could happen,” Threadgill said.

Over the next few weeks, Threadgill said the message would be spread through morning announcements, showing informational videos, and potentially working with online simulators and smartphone applications currently on the market. Threadgill said they also plan to place campaign signs at the school's Fieldhouse so that parents and students attending basketball games will take note of their own distractions.

While the campaign aims at safe driving, Threadgill said it’s also about being a responsible passenger. He encourages passengers to text or call for the driver, and remind them to not operate a phone or even adjust the radio while driving.

If a call is so important, Threadgill said drivers should pull into a parking lot before using a device.

Although this isn’t the first safe driving campaign at the school, Principal Tracy Wilson said it is the largest. She attributes that to the grant funding.

Wilson said students were receptive to the message of previous campaigns.

“It’s something we need to keep in the forefront year-round,” she said.

Coincidentally, Gov. Rick Snyder signed "Kelsey's Law" this week that prohibits teens with a Level 1 or 2 driver's license from using a cell phone while driving. Level 1 licensees must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or another driver at least 21 years old. A Level 2 license allows a teen to drive alone, but with limits on hours and young passengers.

The law is named for Kelsey Raffaele, a 17-year-old from the Upper Peninsula who was killed in a crash while chatting on her cell phone. Her family joined Snyder in Lansing on Tuesday as he signed the bill.

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