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Start Smart teaches caution, safety (VIDEO)

Among one of the last to arrive, my father and I walked in to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) office to attend a rather interesting class. Being new to the road and foreign to the dangers that occur while driving, my dad felt it was best to take me to a class that his work offers once a month. He told me it was to make me a “safe and smarter” driver, hence the class being called Start Smart.

Officer Mike Brown, instructor of the class, kindly gave me brief description of the purpose of Start Smart. He informed me of the reason why they provide the class and how they hope they can prevent accidents. He shared with me that Start Smart is a partnership between the CHP, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), new drivers, parents and/or guardians and members of the community. It is a process which takes a young person from an inexperienced new driver to a safe, competent and confident driver. Teen drivers, 16-20 years old, are killed at a higher rate than any other age group.

Brown briefed more on why the Start Smart program was started and the benefits of taking your child to this class. I learned more about the program and how It is was started to show teen drivers the consequences of their decisions and actions they may make while driving, and to give them the knowledge, through examples and testimony, of what could happen when they act on those decisions.

Knowing I was being forced to attend this two-hour long class made me frustrated. I was going into it with a bad attitude and a smile far from my face. As we drove to the class I was not looking forward to it; the only reason for me going was to make me a more aware and cautious driver.

My thoughts for this “not wanting to go attitude” seemed quite logical to me: ‘Since my dad is a cop and knows everything that this class will teach, why do I have to go to a class that my dad has already been teaching me?’

As my dad and I walked into the classroom all eyes were on us. ‘Great, now I am the center of attention here,’ I thought. All the seats were filled and I was already embarrassed for arriving late, I started walking to sit next to a lady in the back of the room. Not hearing the instructor in the front calling my dad and I to sit in the front, because there was already items prepared for us to sit up there, I kept walking to the back.

To make my experience more joyful, my dad cups his hand around his mouth in a trying to be quiet manner, and calls my name. If you know my dad then you would know he is not the best whisperer. I turned around feeling myself get red and looked at him as he pointed to the front row. I trudged to the front of the room embarrassed and not happy. The class was officially beginning after my dad and I made our grand entrance.

Since I was being forced there, I felt the need to not show my dad that I really did learn things. I wanted him to feel like the class was pointless and that I already learned everything before the class. In reality, I did take things away from the class.

As the instructor began the class he started off by providing us with a lot of facts about drivers in America and gave statistics about the leading cause of death that takes place in our state. In a pamphlet I received, it stated that there is a teenager killed every 70 minutes in a traffic collision finalizing in a shocking over 5,000 deaths of teenagers per year and another 375,000 teenagers injured.

Talking with Sergeant Shawn Wills, I found more interesting facts that captivate my attention. I learned that teen drivers are found at fault in 66% of all fatal collision that they are involved in. They only represent 4% of the state’s licensed drivers. The most interesting fact that caught my attention was that the leading cause of death for Americans 15-20 years old is motor vehicle collisions.

The Start Smart Program was created in order to reduce these statistics. Talking more with Wills, he continued to tell me that distractions are very dangerous when on the road. Inattention can include: talking or texting on the phone, changing the radio station, talking to friends in your car, putting on make-up, shaving, eating food and more.

The atmosphere in the room was drowsy, since almost half the class was attending due to a court order. Everyone listened intently, but given that they provided a nifty CHP pen with a little note pad it was almost impossible for me not to resist the urge to doodle while Officer Brown was giving his presentation.

I finally gave up the distraction of doodling when we the class started watching videos; you felt the vibe shift to a more tolerant attitude. This, to me, was the best part of the class. The videos they showed were real, intense and very informative.

If you have a very sensitive stomach and are not immune to seeing blood or body parts torn off, then watching some of the videos such as the Red Asphalt video is not for you. Yes, it was gruesome, but it was also real. You may think, ‘I watch gruesome things happen in movies all the time,’ but these video have really happened to people and are not hollywood animated.

After the class my dad told me that he did not think I would be able to handle that video but the truth was, I enjoyed it. They were factual and put things in perspective. Yes people were dead and there was a lot of blood but knowing that that was real life made me realize that if I am not careful, that could be me; that could be the outcome I cause to someone else if I am not cautious.

The video below was taken off of the Start Smart website. It demonstrates the consequences reckless driving can cause. The Start Smart Program strives to educate young drivers on how to drive with caution in order to prevent more accidents among young drivers.

The AT&T commercial was very moving, I actually let some tears go during this one. This video promotes no texting while driving. It pictured people who were the ramification or cause of accidents. Each of them told their story of how they lost a love one or were the one affected in the accident. At the end each person held a piece paper with either a single word or the start of sentence, these were the last words they sent, or if they were in the accident, the words they received before they got in a crash.

I would agree with Officer Sean Duncan when he said he would recommend and suggest all new drivers to be apart in the class. According to Duncan, we lose more teenagers to traffic collisions and theses deaths could have been prevented.

The end of the class made me laugh; we were presented with a certificate with our name on it saying that we had taking the Start Smart class. Humorous, was the first thing I thought.

We were also handed a few papers and pamphlets along with the certificate and were also given permission to take our new pen and notebook home as well. That got me excited. This class is one I would say, if possible, go. Listen to me when I say, the class is definitely one that everyone should want to attend.

The classes are once a month in the CHP office at 1382 W. Olive Avenue. The next class will be held at 6 p.m., Oct. 11. Call the office before hand to register all attendees for the class at 559. 441.5441.

For more columns, read the Sept. 27 article, ‘Rock the Vote’ raises awareness for youth voters.

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    Celeste CamachoAug 17, 2012 at 12:04 am

    It was unfortunate that their game had to be cancelled due to rain, but at least they did get to play two innings!