Driving habits and safety are issues in our community, as they are across the nation, but one group of teens' passion for driver safety is bringing attention to the need for change. For the past four years, the Pepperell High Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group has organized the Just Drive - Safe Driving Expo to focus on highway safety for our community’s youngest drivers. The group has announced plans for a fifth annual safe driving event scheduled for this Saturday, April 12 in the K-Mart parking lot across from Home Depot on Hicks Drive. The driving demonstrations will be available 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and there will be free food, and t-shirts for anyone participating.
The event’s focus is improving teen driving but there are many booths and activities for the entire family. There will be two driving courses for participants. One will feature driving a golf cart while wearing Fatal Vision goggles to simulate driving while drunk or impaired. The purpose of driving the golf cart through a course lined with traffic cones is to show teens how their reaction and perception can be altered. The second course will use a pedal car for the younger children. To drive on some of the event courses, a participant must have a valid driver’s license. Teens with a learner’s license must have a parent accompanying them to drive on the licensed courses.
Those without a license will have plenty to do and learn at the safe driving event. The safety event will also feature a bicycle safety course, a simulated crash scene with Jaws of Life demonstrations, tractor trailer safety, the Georgia State Patrol helicopter, car maintenance demonstrations, and inflatable activities for small children. The rollover truck from the University of Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention team will be on display. There will also be representatives from Floyd EMS, Redmond Hospital, Harbin Clinic, and CERT on-site to provide educational information. A new participant this year will be the Floyd County Schools Transportation Department. They will have a bus at the event to allow participants to sit in the driver’s seat to identify blind spots and experience what it is like to drive a school bus.
Every teen in the community is encouraged to attend the Safe Driving Expo. The event isn’t just restricted to dealing with bad decisions related to drugs or alcohol, the dangers of texting and talking on the phone while behind the wheel will be covered as well. "We host the Safe Driving Expo simply to save lives," stated Hope Boyd, president of SADD at Pepperell High. "It is not just teens that do not recognize the dangers associated with driving because often even experienced drivers don't know how to handle driving situations." National statistics confirm the problem as four out of five accidents are attributed to distracted drivers.
The PHS SADD club is active in encouraging teens to be aware of the affects destructive decisions can have on their future. “It is our hope that these events encourage teens to be more conscious of the decisions they make behind the wheel of a car and how those decisions can impact their lives and the lives of others on the road,” stated Alana Ellenburg, faculty advisor to the SADD organization at Pepperell. “Our hope is that the information we provide will encourage more teens to make smart decisions.”
The SADD group receives tremendous support from the community in organizing the Safe Driving Expo. Business sponsors and participants include: radio stations RIDGE 95.7 and WLAQ, K-mart; State Farm Insurance, Terry Simmons; Courtesy Ford of Rome; Fear This, Inc; Floyd’s Wrecker Service; Pinecrest Golf Carts, Rome News-Tribune; SportsPlus Custom Screen Printing; Alfa Insurance, Joel McCool; and Verizon. Community participants include: Floyd County and Rome City Police Departments, Rome/Floyd Fire Department; Floyd Health Care Foundation; Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, Floyd County Emergency Management; Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute; Georgia Army National Guard; Georgia State Patrol; Governor’s Office of Highway Safety; Kiwanis Club of Rome; and Floyd County Schools.