Fading away at the wheel

Death rates at the wheel increase due to distracted driving


Andrew Tapp

According to The Center for Disease Control, teen drivers, especially males, such as junior Dallas Matlock pictured above, are the most at risk to die behind the wheel due to factors like distracted driving.

Madison Gomez, Reporter

Jessica Pinna, a first grader at Glenns Valley Elementary, noticed that there never were enough swing sets. She felt bad when recess ended and everyone had to go inside because not everyone got to enjoy them. She loved to include everyone, leaving no student alone on the playground by inviting them to play with her.

Jessica passed away from a car crash caused by a distracted driver on Nov. 14, 2006. The car that Jessica was in was hit head on by a teenage driver who crossed the centerline. Her mother, Angie Pinna, and other members of her family created a scholarship and put a purple swing set, her favorite color, at Glenns Valley Elementary School to honor her.

“She thought that there needed to be more swings so more kids could play out there,” Angie said. “So that’s one of the reasons why we put one (at Glenns Valley).”

In the past year, the number of fatal car accidents went up six percent, with the total number of fatalities amounting to 40,200, thus making it the second year in a row the number has increased. Distracted driving is just one of the causes of many fatal accidents, but it can be prevented with self-discipline and tips from experienced drivers.

Even when precautions are taken to prevent collisions, it is possible that accidents could still happen. While driving, junior Kierston Whitlock saw there was an accident on Southport and Sherman, causing her to change her route to get home. A car decided to turn right when they weren’t able to then swerved to correct their mistake and ended up rear ending Whitlock. She had no control over the situation, but still became a victim to

distracted driving.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, teens are the most inexperienced drivers, and tend to get in accidents more often than other age groups. Distracted driving makes the inexperienced driver four times more likely to crash than other experienced drivers.

SHS drivers-ed teacher Bernard Cissell has been teaching drivers-ed for 27 years in Illinois and central Indiana. He says the most common mistake beginning drivers make is not directing their full attention to the road. When teens first get their license, they drive safely for a while, get comfortable behind the wheel and start getting distracted, they start causing accidents, according to Cissell.

“You always have to be confident (when driving),” Cissell said. “It’s only then that you can start focusing on everything else, but if you do all those other things, it takes away your confidence.”

Cissell admits that even though he knows that using technology is dangerous at the wheel, he still does it at times. If drivers have trouble with the self-discipline it takes to not use a phone, he recommends putting the device in a place where it cannot be reached such as a glove compartment or in the back seat. It’s not a guaranteed solution, but it reduces the temptation to take a quick look at a cell phone when the ringer sounds. Such a reduction in temptation could prevent an accident from happening and maybe even save a life  like Jessica’s.

In remembrance of Jessica, her family provides a scholarship opportunity to all Perry Township students. The family received the money for the two scholarships they give out from members of the community who annually contribute in Jessica’s memory. For more information, see Kim Bova in the Guidance Office or go to jessicapinna.com to donate to the scholarship fund.