Labor Day is just around the corner. For many individuals and families, it means planning one last summer outing. Many motorists will be hitting the road, enjoying the last 3-day weekend of the summer.
On Tuesday, April 19, Elk & Elk joined Portage County Safe Communities in presenting the 14th Annual None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond Program. Each year nearly 2,000 students from area high schools travel to Hiram College to attend the event. It is held at the start of prom and graduation season to reinforce the importance of making smart decisions behind the wheel.
A realistic crash scene set the tone of the program as students made their way into Paul Martin Fieldhouse. The speakers were introduced by Elk & Elk Partner Marilena DiSilvio, who was invited to emcee the event.
“Although each speaker had a different experience, they are all identical in that the consequences will last forever,” said DiSilvio. “Each incident did not affect just one person, but so many.”
Marc Streem, the first speaker, shared the emotional story of the crash that killed his 14-year-old son, Ryan, almost fifteen years ago. Next, the students heard from Amanda Buxton, who is currently serving four years in prison after she crashed into a tree while driving intoxicated, killing her passenger. The final speaker, Aaron Cooksey, served time in prison and had his license suspended for life after he killed his best friend while driving under the influence. He reflected on the events that led to his decision to get behind the wheel after drinking and the long-term consequences of his actions.
The program concluded with the “Walk of Remembrance.” Eleven area families stood in line to honor their loved one who was killed in a crash caused by impaired or distracted driving.
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Prom and graduation season may be a particularly dangerous time for teens, but impaired and distracted drivers put lives at risk every day. Discussing the consequences of these actions with your family can be difficult, but it is a step that must be taken to protect your loved ones and others on the road.
Elk & Elk was the Presenting Sponsor of the 13th annual None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond Program, hosted by Portage County Safe Communities at Hiram College. Partner Marilena DiSilvio was the emcee of the afternoon, and Senior Partner David Elk spoke at the event.
Approximately 2000 high school students from Portage County and neighboring districts attended None 4 Under 21. The students witnessed realistic crash and funeral scenes as they entered and exited the event, and heard from several guest speakers about the long-term consequences of impaired and distracted driving.
The None 4 Under 21 Program “empowers young people to make appropriate choices by graphically demonstrating the consequences of poor decision-making.”
Every decision has an impact far beyond just you.
Ryan Streem was 14 years old when he was killed in a motor vehicle accident while riding in the bed of a friend’s pickup truck. His father, Marc Streem, shared his family’s story with the students.
“Every decision has an impact far beyond just you,” he cautioned them as he listed all of the things Ryan will never have the opportunity to do, such as attend prom or graduate from high school.
This message encompassed the theme of each guest speaker’s None 4 Under 21 presentation, and represents the far-reaching consequences of impaired, distracted and irresponsible driving.
I never thought that something like this could happen to me.
Next, students heard from a woman who is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide and a number of other charges after she killed a 15-year-old girl while driving intoxicated.
The woman, dressed in her orange prison jumpsuit, teared up as she described the events leading up to the crash.
“I never thought that I would be the cause of a roadside shrine,” she added. “I never thought that something like this could happen to me.”
Let the choices you make today be the choices you can live with tomorrow.
Aaron Cooksey, the final speaker of the afternoon, detailed the tragic mistake that resulted in the death of his best friend, a four-year prison sentence and a lifetime license suspension.
He advised the students to “let the choices [they] make today be the choices [they] can live with tomorrow.”
Following his presentation, Cooksey asked the audience to refrain from applause and instead observe a moment of silence.
Each incident did not affect one person, but many.
DiSilvio brought the afternoon full circle in her closing remarks, once again reminding the students that the decisions they make can change not only their lives, but the lives of their families, friends and even complete strangers.
“Although each speaker had a different experience, they are identical in the fact that the consequences [of their actions] will last forever… each incident did not affect one person, but many.”
Following the presentation students filed through the “Walk of Remembrance,” featuring eleven local families who lost a loved one as the result of a motor vehicle crash.
For more information about the incidents discussed by guest speakers at None 4 Under 21:
Prom and graduation season is exciting, but unfortunately, the months of April, May, and June are also the most dangerous times for high school students. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. One out of three teen crashes is alcohol related and distracted driving results in thousands of deaths.
To help reduce teen deaths and injuries and encourage safe driving, each spring, Elk & Elk sponsors None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond. This community-based event encourages high school students to make safe driving choices and demonstrates the serious consequences of drunk and distracted driving.
While drunk driving is a serious problem, distracted driving has emerged as a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. That’s why we feel it is important to go beyond the message of drinking and driving and talk about the message of distractions.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract them from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. Distractions include, talking or texting on a cell phone, grooming, eating or drinking, changing radio stations, or talking to passengers.
Distracted Driving: Alarming Teen Statistics
In 2013, 3,154 people were killed, and an estimated 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
A recent analysis of crash videos revealed distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, which is four times higher than previous official estimates.
Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds—the equivalent of driving blind at 55-mph for the length of an entire football field.
If you text and drive, you’re 23 times more likely to be in a car accident.
Take the Pledge
We know talking to young adults about drunk and distracted driving can be difficult. To help start the conversation, we encourage you to join Elk & Elk’s effort to promote safe driving by downloading our free Parent-Teen Pledge. It is designed to help families set ground rules for both teen drivers and adults. After you sign it, hang the Pledge by the car keys or near the front door as a reminder to drive responsibly. Don’t just sign the Pledge, take it to heart. It just might save a life.
As a car accident lawyer, I have represented numerous plaintiffs in cases where someone made an error in judgment on the road. Many traffic accidents are the result of distractions, frustrations, impatience, or simply a lack of attention and awareness. Here are a few easy tips on how to avoid accidents in traffic.
Be Comfortable And Ready To Drive
Before you even turn the ignition, you should be seated comfortably in your car. Your seat should be properly adjusted to suit your height and ensure that you’re a comfortable distance from the pedals and the wheel. All of your mirrors should also be adjusted so that you have the best range of vision without needing to overly adjust.
Know Your Car
A car is just a tool we use to get around. So, one of the best ways to avoid an accident is to really understand your car’s limitations. Make a note of your blind spots and how you’ll adjust to them. Understand how your car responds to the gas pedal and how it feels when it’s shifting gears. As a car accident attorney, I recommend getting used to driving on open roads before driving in traffic.
Be Courteous and Practice Defensive Driving
The most effective way to avoid accidents is to be a courteous driver and practice some defensive driving techniques. The most crucial piece of advice that a car accident lawyer can give is to be aware of other people on the road. Leave a reasonable amount of room between you and other cars when stopped or when changing lanes. Follow all traffic signals and speed limits. Try not to get impatient or frustrated, especially when others around you might be making poor decisions.
Remember, everyone is on his or her way to some destination. If you can stay calm and aware, you can handle any level of traffic.