None 4 Under 21 Focuses on Long-Term Consequences of Decisions

None 4 Under 21 Mock Crash Scene
Students viewed this terrifying mock crash scene as they entered None 4 Under 21.

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:

This video produced by TAC (Transport Accident Commission) Victoria was also shown to students during the program.

Friends don’t let friends text and drive

By Arthur Elk

Often, when we talk about peer pressure, it is in a negative light. But peer pressure can have a positive spin, too.

In the battle to get teens to stop texting and driving, it appears that peer pressure may be the greatest weapon. According to a new national survey conducted by tire manufacturer Bridgestone America, it is becoming less socially acceptable to take risks while behind the wheel.

The nationwide survey polled more than 2,000 drivers ages 16-21 and found that teens are less likely to text, check email, watch videos or post to social media sites when their friends are in the car. Results of the survey showed that:

  • 95 percent of teens read texts and emails when on the road alone, 32 percent do so with friends, and only 7 percent when they are driving with their parents.
  • More than 90 percent said they post on social media sites when they are driving alone, 29 percent do so with friends and only 5 percent with parents.
  • 75 percent admit to watching a video when alone in the car, 45 percent do so with friends and only 7 percent with their parents.

The survey also found that most young drivers think their friends are more likely to take part in risky behavior than they are. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed believe their friends text and email while driving, but only 37 percent of those surveyed admit to doing that. Only 9 percent admitted to using social media, but they believe that 29 percent of their friends do so.

It is so important that young people understand the dangers of distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for more than 11 percent of all U.S. highway fatalities. A report issued in February by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that deaths among 16- and 17-year-old drivers grew 19 percent during the first half of last year – a far greater increase than for the general population. Experts believe that distracted driving played a large role in that increase.

At Elk & Elk, we are strong supporters of educating young people about the dangers of distracted driving. As parents, we cannot stress enough the importance of safe driving, no matter who is in the car. Your life can change forever, in a moment.


Texting is deadly, even when it’s hands-free

By Arthur Elk

In 2012, more than 6 billion texts were sent every day. Many of those were probably sent by people who were behind the wheel of a vehicle. That’s too many distracted drivers. In 2011, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 injured in distracted-driving crashes.

Most of us probably think that using hands-free texting is a safer way to text while driving. It seems like it should be, but that may not be true.

In a new study by the Texas Transportation Institute, 43 drivers were tested on a closed road course using a 2009 Ford Explorer. They each drove four times for about 10 minutes at 30 mph while: not texting at all, texting manually, texting with the voice-to-text app on the iPhone, and texting with the Android smartphone voice-to-text app.

Each driver was asked to complete five text-messaging tasks: send one, read and reply to three, and simply read one. The texts were provided in a short script.

The study found that driver response times were slower no matter which method of texting was used. Drivers took about twice as long to react as when they weren’t texting and spent less time looking at the road, the study says. Surprisingly, driver performance was roughly the same with both methods of texting, although manual texting actually required slightly less time than using voice-to-text.

No matter what method of texting you use, you are distracted from what you should be focused on: the road and other drivers around you. Don’t become just another statistic. Make smart choices. That text message that seems so important can wait until you are stopped. No text message is worth risking your life or the life of others around you.

Keep your eyes on the road, not your phone: 3-year-old girl hurt by distracted driver

By Arthur Elk

Did you know that you are 23 times more likely to be in an accident if you are texting and driving? The innocent victims of your reckless behavior could be anyone. Sadly this time, it was a 3-year-old girl.

Last month, in a parking lot near a Kohl’s store in Strongsville, a distracted driver didn’t realize that she had hit a 3-year-old girl until two strangers jumped in front of her car and stopped her.

The girl’s mother said the driver was looking right and turning left while on a cell phone. The mother and daughter were walking hand-in-hand when the little girl was struck. A man ran to block the moving car and tried to the lift the bumper while a woman threw herself in front of the car’s tires.

The girl’s hip is fractured in four places, so she can’t walk and can hardly sit up. Her mother said the hardest part is they have no idea what damage this will cause in the long term.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

But, because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

As a personal injury attorney, I have seen too many times the results of people making bad choices and driving while texting or taking part in some other distracting activity. Thousands die needlessly each year because people continue to use their cell phones while driving. Luckily, this 3-year-old girl survived, but her life may be changed forever because of one driver’s bad decision.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted driver, you need an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney to fight for your rights. At Elk & Elk, we believe strongly in helping victims get their lives back on track. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our free, no-obligation online consultation form.

Grant to help fund new anti-texting-and-driving measures

Earlier this year, Ohio joined the growing list of states with bans on texting and driving, yet many states are discovering how difficult it is to stop texting and driving and enforce the bans.

A total of 38 states ban texting while driving, and many municipalities have their own texting and driving ordinance.  In many cases, the law only bans texting and driving, not all cellphone use. This makes it difficult for police, as they must prove someone is texting and not using their cellphone for some other, legal purpose. In Minnesota, police wrote only 1,200 tickets for texting in 2011. In Scranton, PA, police issued only 10 tickets in the first six months after that state’s ban took effect, and one of those was to a driver who admitted texting after a crash.

This difficulty has forced law enforcement agencies to seek out new avenues for cracking down on illegal texters. A new $550,000 federal grant announced last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will allow police departments in Massachusetts and Connecticut to test a variety of anti-texting initiatives in the next two years. The measures – everything from ad campaigns to roving patrols – are designed to find “real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving,” according to NHTSA chief David Strickland.

One new measure the grant will help fund is spotters on overpasses and other roadways who can identify drivers who are typing behind the wheel. There is already proof that a program like this can work.

Earlier this month, police in Bismarck, ND, wrote 31 distracted driving tickets in two days as part of a crackdown. Officers used unmarked, high-riding trucks or SUVs to peer down into cars and catch texters in the act. Because North Dakota bans texting and Internet browsing while driving, officers had to be able to see what drivers specifically were doing with their phones. One officer said they could have written twice as many tickets but didn’t have enough evidence.

The personal injury attorneys of Elk & Elk have seen too many cases of drivers injured because of other drivers’ distracted driving. Because of these tragic situations, we are in favor of in steps to help keep drivers focused on the road and not on their electronic devices. Thousands of American motorists have fallen victim to distracted driving and everything must be done to end this epidemic.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, contact the personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk today. We will put our experience and resources to work to get you the results you need. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our convenient online consultation form.