Four students from Mesa Verde High School learned firsthand the dangers of distracted driving earlier this week when they participated in an event that put them behind the wheel of a car at the Sonoma raceway.
Students were asked to change lanes at freeway speeds as well as complete a timed course while an instructor rattled off a list of things to do send a one-word text message, adjust the radio, open the sun roof. Instructors from the Simraceway Performance Driving Center oversaw and rode with participants.
Seven students from Sonoma State University, Marin Catholic High School and Mesa Verde High participated in the event, which was in partnership with St. Joseph Health of Sonoma County, the Simraceway Performance Driving Center, Farmers Insurance and the California Highway Patrol.
"I already knew not to drive distracted, but it showed how your reaction times are affected," said Wil Chavez, a Mesa Verde junior. "If you aren't distracted, you pay more attention to the road."
Chavez, William Afanaseff, Jared Cambridge and Ashley Hovorka participated in the event from Mesa Verde High.
Chavez said students were instructed to treat cones as if they were people.
"I hit one cone while I was driving distracted," he said.
Chavez said he also found that he drove more slowly and forgot part of the course while driving distracted.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 3,092 people were killed and an estimated additional 416,000 were injured in auto accidents involving distracted drivers in 2010.