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Texting and driving seminar shows why it's a bad idea

Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes instructs some about-to-be-lawbreakers. The Park Rapids Area High School students quickly learned the impact of distracted driving and how hazardous they become on the road. (Submitted photo)

Members of the Park Rapids High School volleyball and football squads received a hands-on lesson about the dangers of texting and driving and drinking and driving during an exercise co-sponsored by Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes and Evergreen Fun Park on Sunday, Aug. 28.

The young drivers, some young enough to only have a drivers permit, were given the task of driving go-carts around the road course at speeds nearing 20 miles per hour while simultaneously either texting or wearing goggles that simulate the effects of alcohol impairment.

In addition to maneuvering the winding course, extra obstacles were put in their way. Boxes with stop signs, pictures of deer, dogs, and even a woman pushing a baby in a stroller were placed on the course to provide real-life situations that could come arise while driving.

Participant Jeff Hemenway said it was a good exercise.

"You don't realize how long you take your eyes off the road to send a text," he said. "It wasn't as hard on the straight-aways, but in the curves it was really tough. It made you realize how dangerous it is."

One student was overheard saying that she thought it would be easier to text and drive, but she couldn't even hang on to her phone.

One driver was given the task of texting and driving. She was observed by Sheriff Aukes driving through two "stop signs" and hitting the "woman and baby" without ever noticing that any of those obstacles were there or that she had hit them.

"They weren't able to maintain proper distances from other cars. I don't think any of them made it around without hitting something or someone." said Sheriff Aukes. "This [exercise] should increase the awareness of how serious texting and driving and drunk driving is and how it can lead to tragedy."

"This was a fun way to get a serious message across to the kids," said Evergreen Fun Park co-owner Barb Atwood.

"If it prevents one tragedy, it was worth it. We plan to make this a yearly event to help increase awareness about how kids, and everyone really, should concentrate on the road when they drive."