THS students learn dangers of distracted and drunken driving

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – For students at Thompson High School, a distracted driving demonstration by UAB’s TRIP Lab on the afternoon of April 10 carried a little more weight than it may have at other schools.

A little more than a year ago, the students lost one of their classmates, Camryn “CiCi” Calloway in a distracted driving crash on the Interstate 65 off-ramp at the tank farm exit in Pelham, prompting many students to realize the real-world dangers of driving without their attention fully on the road.

“Ever since that day (CiCi died), I’ve been trying to reach anyone and everyone, especially students, about the consequences of distracted driving. They’re deadly,” said Calloway’s mother, Michelle Lunsford, who attended the UAB presentation in the school’s Performing Arts Center. “I’ve been very passionate about bringing awareness to distracted driving. I just think there’s a false perception of ‘Hey, I’ve got this’ out on the road. These kids, they’re young and inexperienced on the road. I don’t want any other families to go through what our family had to go through. It’s a nightmare that I don’t want anyone else to experience.”

During the event, TRIP Lab and Alabama Department of Transportation representatives highlighted statistics tied to driving while distracted or intoxicated, and then allowed students to take part in activities simulating how difficult it is to drive safely while distracted or under the influence.

“It does simulate (a blood-alcohol content of) 0.2 or higher, and it shows the students the consequences of getting that intoxicated,” said ALDOT representative Ray Pugh. “You don’t have control of your faculties. Overall, driving safety involves four key components: Never drinking and driving, slowing down, don’t drive distracted and always wear your seat belt.”

School leaders timed the presentation around the THS prom, which is on April 13.

“We were really intrigued with UAB and the program they have for distracted driving, because it brings science to it. It really speaks to the students,” said THS Principal Dr. Wesley Hester. “We wanted an extra layer of education to it, not only the dangers of distracted driving and texting while driving, but also what really happens when you are behind the wheel and you are distracted or impaired. Your thinking and your visibility and all those things really come together, and it results in so many accidents and so many lives lost and injuries. They really bring a lot of statistics to it that our students need to know and understand.”