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Taylor County High School's Cody Smith and Dakota Gilbert were among 33 high school students from 26 schools throughout the state who checked into the Kentucky State Police Academy in Frankfort recently.
During their three-day stay, they learned safe driving techniques from Kentucky State Police instructors as part of the fifth annual "Drive To Stay Alive" program, which ran from Nov. 11-14.
Activities included classroom exercises at KSP headquarters in Frankfort and hands-on driving instruction at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
"The goal of this program is to decrease teen fatalities on Kentucky roadways," says Kentucky State Police Commissioner Jack Adams. "Nationally, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers.
"The 'Drive To Stay Alive' program was designed not only to decrease teen crashes but to provide them with the tools to be advocates in their own communities about safe driving," said KSP Captain Tim Lucas, commander of the Highway Safety Branch.
"The training includes topics such as collision causation, vehicle dynamics and skid control, backing skills, multiple turns and lane interchange, safety belts and air bags, evasive maneuvers, off-road recovery, and controlled braking," Lucas said.
Last year in Kentucky, teen drivers accounted for 26,842 collisions. Of that figure, there were 6,146 injuries and 127 fatalities. Even more alarming are the 2006 Driving Under the Influence charges for drivers between the ages of 16-19. There were 3,451 first offense DUI charges and 218 second-offense charges filed in Kentucky district court last year.
During the program, students were asked to sign a safe driving pledge. The pledge acknowledges that the student will not drive while impaired, always wear a seat belt, practice safe driving and refrain from distracted driving such as cell phones, eating, using I-pods, etc.
According to Lucas, the real potential of the "Drive To Stay Alive" program begins after the students return to their schools.
"The students are teamed with an experienced state trooper to spread the message to the student body in each school and to their community as well," he said. "The effectiveness of the program is based on the concept that a message conveyed by a fellow student carries more weight with other students and is therefore more memorable."
The students will be evaluated and scored on the safe driving programs they present to their respective schools and communities. The students with the most effective programs are eligible for scholarship funds. Their schools will be rewarded as well.
Adams says he believes the "Drive to Stay Alive" program will have a lasting effect on these teens.
"These students have a unique opportunity to make a real difference," Adams said. "They can help influence on-the-road driving behaviors and save lives on Kentucky's highways. It's a very worthwhile goal that will require dedication and effort on their part, but it's worth it if they save even one life. It could be their own, their best friend, a neighbor or a family member."
In addition to Taylor County, students participating in the course represent the following high schools: Barren County, Betsy Lane, Casey County, Corbin, George Rogers Clark, Grant County, Greenup County, Henry County, Knott County, Letcher County, Lincoln County, Livingston Central, Lloyd Memorial, Logan County, Madison Central, McClean County, Menifee County, Murray, North Bullitt, Shelby County, Tates Creek, Trigg County, Trimble County, Washington County and Western Hills.