Distracted driving: ‘It Can Wait”

Press conference and assembly for seniors highlight the dangers of distracted driving.

Distracted+driver%2C+Gonzalo+Aranguiz+tells+the+students+about+how+distracted+driving+led+to+him+killing+a+cyclist.

Henry Reed

Distracted driver, Gonzalo Aranguiz tells the students about how distracted driving led to him killing a cyclist.

Natalie DerAvanessian, Section Editor & Coverage Editor

“What a lot of people don’t think about with distracted driving, everyone always thinks about distracted driving with cell phones,” said Officer Bejar to an assembly of 250 Clark seniors on Friday, April 6, as they listened to the officer explain why they should be cautious when driving. “But what we encounter is that a lot of times where people will be involved in traffic collision because they’re distracted from something else. It could be eating, dropping cigarettes, talking to someone or even kids. There’s a lot of different things that distract drivers.”

After the presentation, seniors watched a video of a victim of distracted driving, Gonzalo Aranguiz. When Gonzalo was studying at Cal Poly Pomona he encountered a life-changing event. “I made a simple decision, that I think everyone makes in their everyday life. The only thing is I did it behind the wheel, when I could have waited. The lesson is that when you’re behind the wheel, all those things can wait,” said Gonzalo. The simple decision Gonzalo made when driving during his studies at Cal Poly Pomona was that he picked up his phone when it fell in the car he was driving. During this second of distraction he hit and killed a cyclist.

Henry Reed
Officer Ryan Bejar shows students the death wheel which shows the different types of distractions leading to death.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Impact Teen Drivers “What Do You Consider Lethal?” program partnered to host this program to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. With the participation of AT&T “It Can Wait” campaign the school hoped that this effort would change the reckless behavior of teen drivers. The event began at 10 a.m. with a press conference at the front of the school where representatives from law enforcement, state leaders, school board members and a selected group of students gathered to promote awareness. As the event began Principal Lena Kortoshian welcomed the press and discussed the effects of teen driving. This event also coincided with the senior assembly which also discussed the effects of reckless teen driving.

During the press conference, Chief Bill Lynch of the Glendale Fire Department said, “Driving is a full time job. You should put everything aside and focus on the road.” The National Safety Council estimates that within the last year 40,000 people died in car crashes. This was the highest death rate from motor vehicles in nine years. The focal point of this event was to inform motorists to pay attention to their driving. By having virtual reality simulators provided by AT&T, students were able to experience first hand dangers of using a smartphone while driving.

People have to remember that distracted driving could be from anything!”

— Officer Bejar

There were also other activities such as beer goggles, sobriety test, impairment drop, CHP seat belt challenge and the wheel of death. After the press conference that included a select group of students, the presenters proceeded to the cafeteria for a senior class assembly. During this time Office Ryan Bejar asked the seniors if they drove and encouraged them to start now if they haven’t yet. He also mentioned the laws that apply to teen drivers such as being provisional for year which means not being able to use Bluetooth devices, driving after curfew, and having passengers in the car.

When discussing distracted driving, he pointed out that there are many causes for a collision. Anything can divert your attention for a second, he said. “That’s why there are laws where two teenagers can’t be in the car together until they get enough experience after the one year provisional wait,” he said.

Gonzalo’s story along with the presentation by the police officers brought awareness to the seniors at Clark of the possibilities resulting from distracted driving. “Although there were 250 seniors at the assembly, if only one person decides to take information and put it in use by becoming a more safe driver then yes, this assembly is effective,” said senior John Bandek.