On Tuesday morning, students learned about the dangers of distracted driving, such as texting, just in time for a new law that goes into effect Thursday.
Almost 250 students from 15 schools in Lycoming, Tioga and Bradford counties attended the 21st annual Students Against Destructive Decisions Conference at Pennsylvania College of Technology, 1024 W. Third St.
Jennifer Horning, State Farm Insurance public affairs specialist, explained the no-texting-while-driving law to the attendees of her Dangers of Texting and Driving workshop.
On Thursday, texting while driving will become against the law in Pennsylvania.
A person can be pulled over for texting as of Thursday for using an interactive wireless communication device to send, read or write a text-based message.
Horning explained the communication device can be defined as a cellphone, a personal digital assistant, a portable or mobile computer and future technology that allows people to text.
In 2010, there were nearly 14,000 crashes in Pennsylvania where distracted driving played a role, with 68 people dying in those crashes, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Students were given the opportunity to see how well they could text and drive during Horning's workshop. They used a Wii video game system to race while friends in the class sent text messages. While trying not to crash, they had to respond to the messages.
Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, it equals the length of driving an entire football field blind, Horning said.
This is the first year the texting and driving workshop was offered.
For two eighth-grade students at Harlen Rowe Junior High in Bradford County, the workshop that affected them the most was Survival 101, a graphic presentation that draws from the experience of Cpl. Carl Finnerty, a South Williamsport police officer, with pictures and stories of real people who died in car crashes.
"It influenced me a lot seeing all the accidents," Casey Lattimer, of Athens, said. "I'm just going to go home and tell my parents to never drink and drive."
The program was an eye-opener for Kyleigh Wayman, of Athens. She said she never knew crashes could be that bad and cause that much trouble.
A commercial that demonstrated how real crashes looked showed multiple people getting into crashes, including a little boy who was hit by a car.
"It made me feel so horrible," she said.
Another workshop, presented by Wayne Harper, director of the Center for Traffic Safety in York, showed how much people miss while driving.
Harper showed the students in the class different slides for 10 seconds and then asked three true or false questions about each slide.
"I select photos based on the teaching opportunities," he said. "On the second look, we explain why we asked that."
After the course, Harper asked the students to raise a hand if they learned something. He said in the 15 years the course has been taught, he has never had a student not raise a hand.
"At the beginning of the workshop, I told them I will make them better drivers without them getting behind the wheel."
Other facts he presented to the students included:
* Headlights must be on if the wipers are running.
* Drivers cannot pass if the line is solid.
* A U.S. highway sign is black and white and an interstate sign is blue and red.
The conference was sponsored by the Community Traffic Safety Project with support from PennDOT, Penn College, law enforcement, the county coroner and local and state presenters.