Patrolmen speak at PRC

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Mississippi Highway Patrol give Pearl River Central High School juniors and seniors a presentation on inattentive driving Friday as students begin to prepare for the prom and the Summer.

The presentation covered intoxicated driving and focused on driver distraction due to cell phones.

Driver distraction can be attributed to drinking, drug use or simply talking on a cell phone, said Trooper John Poulos during the presentation.

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To demonstrate Poulos and his two companions, Troopers Roy Jacobsen III and Michael Westbrook, set up 30 empty chairs at the front of the gymnasium to represent the young people who have died in automobile accidents during the last year.

Since prom is coming up Poulos talked to students about the repercussions of riding in a car with a friend who has been drinking.

“(If you do) you have just given that driver the keys to your soul, because you don’t have the power any more,” Poulos said.

Jacobsen said half of all DUI arrests involve a person who was taking prescription pills. Even though the medication is prescribed, it is still considered driving under the influence, he said.

All three troopers talked about the various accidents they have worked during their careers as law enforcement officials. Through those accidents Poulos said he has noticed alcohol is no longer the number one cause of fatal accidents, driver distraction is. Cell phone use is a major cause of driver distraction, he said.

Poulos told the students stories of people who were on cell phones and were involved in accidents due to the driver’s inattention. One incident involved an 18 year-old boy who was on his cell phone with his mother when he was hit by an 18 wheeler. The car was crushed beyond recognition and the boy died while on the phone with his mother.

Westbrook told a story about an incident where a woman text messaging while driving almost caused him serious injury in an accident.

“If you’re going to be on a cell phone you better be on the side of the highway,” Westbrook said. “I got a daughter and a wife to go home to and if I can help it I’m going home to them.”

Seatbelt usage is also crucial to driver and passenger safety. Even if one person in the vehicle is not wearing their seat belt all passengers in the vehicle could suffer. When a car stops the person not wearing their seat belt does not stop, causing that person to become a projectile inside the vehicle.

Their presentation ended with a showing of an unfamiliar key to most people, a casket key. Poulos said while that key will be used one day, it should only be used after those students have accomplished everything in life they set out to.