'Operation Driver Excellence' event to tackle distracted driving - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

'Operation Driver Excellence' event to tackle distracted driving, road safety for teens

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

With motor vehicle crashes being the leading cause of deaths among U.S. teens each year, the state Department of Education will hold its 29th annual “Operation Driver Excellence” event to educate high school students about safe driving. The Saturday, April 8 event at Aloha Stadium from 7:45 a.m. to noon is expected to attract hundreds of students and their parents representing schools across Oahu. The community event – sponsored by DTRIC Insurance and Par Hawaii – is free and open to any interested students and parents who want to get free traffic safety tips and resources.  A similar event was held on Hawaii Island in late January and an event on Maui is scheduled for April 29.

Professional race car driver Andy Pilgrim will also be on hand at the Aloha Stadium event to talk to students about the dangers of unsafe driving.

“I am honored to be part of this important community event to reach Hawaii’s youth and their parents about safe driving,” said Pilgrim, who has 30 years of professional racing experience. “When it comes to driver education, parents hold the key – literally and figuratively – in teaching their children about correct driving habits.”

There will also be several learning stations on tire safety, blind zones around commercial vehicles, properly loading and hitching a trailer, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and impaired driving from the effects of alcohol, marijuana and concussions.

The half-day session will also provide students optional hands-on driving courses to improve their safety while they are on the road.

A 2013 report by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, documented that 2,163 teens in the United States between the ages 16 and 19 were killed and 243,243 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. This translated to six teens dying every day from motor vehicle injuries.

“Unfortunately, Oahu and all of our other islands are not immune from teen motor vehicle crashes,” said Jan Meeker, resource teacher for the state Department of Education’s driver education program. “The good news is that teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable.”

“Since we first began sponsoring Operation Driver Excellence 29 years ago, the needs of young drivers have changed. Today, text messaging, taking phone calls while driving, even when hands free, and scrolling through emails have become acceptable behaviors while driving in our ever-increasingly busy world.  There are competing demands vying for our attention, and multi-tasking has become an accepted way of life,” said Jim Yates, Par Hawaii president, who oversees the statewide network of Hele and 76-branded retail stations and logistics operations. “But we want to stress that crashes involving handheld electronic mobile devices while driving are preventable. No one wants to lose a son, daughter or friend.”

Michele Saito, DTRIC Insurance president and chief executive officer, added: “Traffic crashes are especially tragic when it involves young drivers who are just starting their lives. Operation Driver Excellence gives island teens the chance to refine their driving skills and understand what they can do to prevent crashes in our community.”

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a video analysis and police reports showed that 58 percent of teen vehicle crashes or nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, were the result of distractions. The most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver included: Interacting with one or more passengers, cell phone use, and looking at something inside/outside the vehicle,

“Operation Driver Excellence” provides Hawaii’s high school teen drivers the opportunity to test their driving skills and learn how to stay safe on Hawaii’s roadways through an annual event, sponsored as a community partnership involving the Department of Education, Hawaii Traffic Safety Education Association, Par Hawaii, and DTRIC Hawaii.

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