Hands off the Phone and on the Wheel

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Hands off the Phone and on the Wheel

Sean Mahoney and Darien Rinn, Staff Writers

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Mr. Ben Lieberman came to Middletown High School North on May 21, 2019 to give a presentation about distracted driving. High school Junior, Austin Alberto, played a major role in organizing the event.

Mr. Lieberman lost his son Evan, 19, following the summer of his freshman year of college to a distracted driver who was proven to be on his cell phone throughout the drive and near the time of impact.  According to the website known as “Evan’s Team,” DORC (Distracted Operators Risk Casualties) is a newly formed organization to help change behavior through educating the public, advocating for enforcement and fighting for legislation.” In addition to DORC, Mr. Lieberman is involved with an organization called ACDD (Alliance Combating Distracted Driving).

Mr. Lieberman’s presentation focused on a few main points derived from these two organizations.  The biggest question addressed was “Can this distracted driving behavior change?” As of right now, distracted driving has become more of a social normality and just like drunk driving, cigarette smoking and seat belts, Mr. Lieberman believes that the perception needs to change in order for behavior to change.  “When everybody is doing it, it feels safe,” Lieberman said.

A recent AAA survey revealed 77% of young adults say they can text and drive safely.  This is a very dangerous belief. In fact, mobile use is now the leading cause of death behind the wheel.  Studies show that texting while driving is 5-6 times more dangerous than drunk driving. “Texting takes your eyes off the road for 4-6 seconds.  That is equivalent to traveling the length of a football field blindfolded,” Lieberman stated.

A video (link below) from a police department in Ben’s local community provides insight into the proposed “Evan’s Law”, named after Evan Lieberman. The law introduces technology and protocol that enables police to investigate crashes by detecting illegal typing and swiping but differentiates between legal Bluetooth/voice activation. The video also included statistics such as the following: 11 teens die per day from distracted driving, cell phones are involved in 27% of all car crashes and distraction is a factor in 58% of teen accidents.

Lieberman left his audience with these final words: “What seems to be a really harmless action leaves a wake of damage across so many people.  I guarantee the man who killed my son didn’t wake up that morning intending to kill somebody.”

Austin Alberto stated, “The Lieberman’s are close family friends and the tragic loss of young Evan’s life greatly influenced me (a new teen driver), to become more of an advocate against distracted driving and help to spread the Lieberman family’s word and mission to fight for greater accountability and consequence, community by community.”  Austin went on to say, “I felt compelled to organize this awareness assembly with Ben so he could share his heart wrenching story with my fellow classmates who too, are new to the roads.”

Austin closed with, “Remember the words, Hands off the Phone and on the Wheel, when you get behind the wheel and work to do your part in educating others about the dangers of distracted driving.  Make safety your first priority.”

For more information, access the two links below.  The first link illustrates how Ben’s community has come together to implement the program “Hands Off the Phone & On the Wheel”.  The second link discusses “Evan’s Law” and the “Textalyzer”, a tool that can identify the timeline of cell phone usage following an accident, while keeping its content personal and undisclosed.

https://vimeo.com/162567095

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/could-textalyzer-help-identify-distracted-drivers/

Junior Austin Alberto, Ben Lieberman and School Principal Dr. Patricia Vari-Cartier.

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