Two emergency room nurses and an emergency room receptionist at the Grand River Hospital District have teamed up to promote safer driving habits among Garfield County teens.
With support from the hospital, Lisa Domer, Lynda McFarland and Darnelda Counts have created a comprehensive, ongoing program, "Don't Get Wrecked," which addresses multiple aspects of safe driving and encourages teens to sign a pledge to practice safe driving techniques: Wearing a seat belt, not drinking and driving, not texting while driving, etc.
"It's been proven that programs like driver's ed decrease the number of accidents," McFarland said, but noted driver's education is a short-term program. Other programs, like the Colorado State Patrol's "Click-it or Ticket" program are ongoing, but only address one topic.
The district's program, which offers education and information, encourages teens to sign a pledge that they will not participate in any unsafe driving practices, and that they will promote safe driving as passengers.
"Thirty-five percent of teen deaths are related to car accidents," McFarland said. Tasks an adult driver with more experience might be able to manage can prove fatal for a teen driver.
In 2010, nearly 3,100 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in the U.S., and another 416,000 people were injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver, according to figures from the district's program.
Working together with the Rifle Police Department, and with educators and students at Rifle High School, the program has also received support from local businesses, which have provided prizes, such as gas cards, for teens who sign the pledge.
"We're hoping that the more prizes we can offer, the more kids will participate," McFarland said.
Parents are asked to sign the pledge, too.
"Kids augment their parents' bad driving behaviors. If dad goes 80 mph, his son will go 82 mph," McFarland said.
"I really appreciate that this program gives the kids an opportunity to make this pledge on their own, it's not just somebody nagging at them to put on their seat belt and not text and drive," said Counts.
The group has created one informational video about the effect of texting on one's driving ability, with help from Spruce Creek Multimedia and Altitude Driving School. The video, the first of several they plan to produce, will be shown at Rifle High School in the spring, and eventually posted on local television and the Internet.
McFarland said they hope to take the program to students at Coal Ridge High School as well.
"If we can reduce the number of accidents in Garfield County with this program, if we can save one life, it's worth it," McFarland added.
For more information on the "Don't Get Wrecked" program, call Grand River Hospital District at 625-6451.