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Celebrate My Drive puts new spin on road rules
Several hundred teenagers who recently became licensed drivers, have a valid learner's permit, or who will soon be old enough to drive, gathered Saturday at the Southgate Mall to participate in the inaugural Celebrate My Drive event.
The celebration, hosted by Armijo Insurance Agency and sponsored by State Farm insurance company, included several activities aimed at teaching young driver's how to stay safe on the road. Several similar events were held nationwide Saturday.
Iin the parking lot, the teens had a chance to get behind the wheel of a new car and take it for a spin. The 2012 and 2013 models were provided by Alexander Ford.
“They were very excited to be sitting in a brand new car,” said Manuel Gutierrez, Alexander Lincoln sales manager.
The teens were able to drive the cars along an unused road that surrounds the mall. Their driving skills were scored using a smartphone app created by State Farm. The app uses a GPS system to score acceleration, braking, and cornering skills.
“The idea behind this… it is not the old approach where it is blood and guts and tragedy,” Martin Armijo said about the celebration. “What we are doing is celebrating the responsibility of the privilege to have that driver's license.”
It is important to teach teens the importance of taking safety precautions while driving since new drivers are prone to more collision incidents “due to the fact they are inexperienced,” Armijo continued.
Important topics discussed with the teens included the problem of texting while driving, driving recklessly or at high speeds, and distracted driving caused by other passengers.
Collisions caused because drivers were texting while in motion have “almost replaced the statistics for DUIs,” Armijo said.
The Yuma Police Department set up a vehicle out in the parking lot of the mall that had been wrecked because the driver had been texting while in motion, to show the teens the possible consequences of doing it themselves.
“We don't want them hurt and we don't want them in an accident,” said YPD traffic investigator Randy Thompson, who has personally seen collisions caused because the driver had been texting while driving.
“Texting and talking on the phone are major distractions, and are getting worse constantly.”
While the event encouraged teens to practice safe driving, it is up to their parents to instill important safety skills in them, Armijo said.
“The research that State Farm has done ... indicates the more a parent is involved in teaching a teen driver skills, the better that driver becomes.”
Armijo would like to have had more teens involved in the event, but hopes for a bigger turnout next year.
“I think everybody enjoyed themselves and I'm overwhelmed that we are able to bring that awareness to Yuma County and our teen drivers. Hopefully next year there will be a bigger awareness and we will have a higher draw for teen drivers here at the celebration event.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.