Teen Drivers Illustrate

Dangers of Distracted Driving at Sonoma Raceway


SONOMA, Calif. (April 5, 2017) —  Bay Area high school students received some first-hand experience as to the dangers of distracted driving on Wednesday at Sonoma Raceway.

The event kicked off Distracted Driving Awareness Month (April) and was also part of California's Teen Driver Safety Week. The raceway partnered with California Highway Patrol, the Sears Point Racing Experience, Impact Teen Drivers, and verihealth, Inc. on this awareness and education event, which took place on the Sonoma Raceway road course.

Ten students participated in the hands-on driving event, which was designed to illustrate the dangers of distracted driving. The day began with a presentation by Impact Teen Drivers and the California Highway Patrol, including Maria Coyner, a driver who took a life while texting and driving.  Participating students were from Analy High School (Sebastopol), Justin-Siena High School (Napa), Hanna Boys Center (Sonoma), Sonoma Valley High School and Vintage High School (Napa).

"It's always a thrill to come out and speak to a great group of students, and I'm really thrilled that the raceway is really committed to making sure that teen drivers are being safe," said Impact Teen Drivers Education Outreach Coordinator, David Aaronson. "Being an inexperienced driver comes with all sorts of dangers and the more training they have, the better."

For the simulation, students completed a series of drills including an ABS braking exercise, skid control basics and a timed course during which they handled basic in-car distractions, including adjusting the radio, opening a water bottle and talking with passengers.  Instructors from the Sears Point Racing Experience, which is based at the raceway, oversaw and rode with all participants.

"The more we can elevate everyone's skills, the safer we all are," said Tim Moser, Sears Point Racing Experience staff instructor. "Driving is the most dangerous thing they'll ever do on a day-to-day basis, so the key is learning how to take this information and apply it to the road."

Overall, eighty percent of the students were slower and crashed more while they were distracted, meaning they ran over a cone or missed a section of track. All teens were surprised by the significant impact of in-car distractions on their driving ability.

"How can I not think about these things? I just experienced it here, so how is here any different than out on the road," said Justin-Siena High School student Shawnee Wallace of Sonoma. "It's definitely one of those things that will carry out on the open road and it's going to apply to everyone."

Recent data reflects the need for continued focus on the dangers of distracted driving. Around 4,000 teens each year die in car crashes that are 100-percent preventable and 400,000 teens are seriously injured. Seventy-five percent of the car crashes that kill teens have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol, just reckless and distracted driving. Continued education and awareness are needed to combat these alarming statistics.

 "The students are still learning to drive, so we are trying to equip them with the right tools to make sure that when they get out on the road, they can react properly and make the right decision," said Officer Marc Renspurger of California Highway Patrol.

The Sears Point Racing Experience offers a Safe Driver Training Course designed to educate participants about the realities of driving, empowering them to safely and efficiently handle a variety of challenging scenarios on the road. For more information on safe driving courses, visit www.simracewaydrivingschool.com.