Grads reminded to drive safely

Published 11:45 pm Thursday, May 8, 2014

With new graduates sure to be traveling throughout the parish to various ceremonies and events throughout the next few weeks, local officials have issued a warning about the dangers of drunk or distracted driving.
Bogalusa Fire Chief Richard Moody said seniors are often warned about why they should not drink and drive, but first responders are also seeing many wrecks due to teens texting while driving.
He said he’s been to get the word out to anyone he can, including young people, church groups and various organizations, that texting while driving should always be avoided.
“Graduation is a time to celebrate, but we don’t want any of our young people getting in wrecks,” he said.
Moody said the fire department has responded to several accidents recently that were caused because the driver was texting in his or her vehicle.
Franklinton Police Department Maj. Justin Brown added that distracted driving encompasses using a phone, changing the stations on a radio or any other factor that would take a driver’s attention off the road.
As the law is written, an officer cannot make a traffic stop solely because he or she sees someone texting or talking on a phone while driving, Brown said.
However, if the officer witnesses the driver using a cellphone and observes that use of the phone has caused the violation of a traffic law, the driver can be pulled over. He said the driver will be issued a citation for the traffic violation, along with an additional ticket for texting while driving.
He said texting while driving is dangerous. In fact, the level of impairment for a driver who is texting is considered to be five times worse than that of a driver who is under the influence of alcohol.
Brown said he has made a personal effort help ensure all teens are safe during their graduation festivities.
He met with seniors at Bowling Green School and told them that that if they have a “lapse in judgment” after graduation and decide to consume alcohol, they should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle or ride in the car with a driver who has been drinking.
He provided the students with his personal cellphone number and said they can contact him if they find themselves in that situation. He said he would personally come to get them and would bring them home safely, no questions asked.
Brown said he will provide that same information to Franklinton High’s seniors on Friday, May 9, the day of their graduation ceremony.
He said he knows firsthand what it is like to experience the death of a loved one in a vehicle crash. His brother, who was 23 years old, was killed in a car accident 14 years ago this month.
“Experiencing that, I don’t want anyone else’s family to go through that, knowing it’s something that we can help prevent,” he said.