Attractions illustrate dangers of distracted driving

First Selectman Michael Tetreau and Fairfield Police Lt. James Perez watch as Nick Fech, an 11-year-old Fairfield Police Explorer, takes a spin on a computer that simulates the effects texting and phone use have on the ability to drive. (John Kovach Photo)

First Selectman Michael Tetreau and Fairfield Police Lt. James Perez watch as Nick Fech, an 11-year-old Fairfield Police Explorer, takes a spin on a computer that simulates the effects texting and phone use have on the ability to drive. (John Kovach Photo)

The white car rolled side-over-side along the Post Road Saturday, bodies being flung out windows with each rotation.

“Oh, my God,” one teen girl said as she witnessed the horror.

“I suddenly feel like wearing a seatbelt all the time,” said another.

The bodies were gray mannequins, hurled from a device that simulates what can happen during a rollover crash. The girls were among the youths who attend Celebrate My Drive, sponsored by State Farm Insurance in association with Fairfield Police and the Fairfield Police Explorers.

“As you see,” Fairfield Police Officer Paul Medvegy said, “you’ve got to wear your seatbelts at all times.”

In addition to the rollover, The Seat Belt Convincer allowed riders to feel the force equivalent to an impact at 5 to 10 miles per hour, and a computer illustrated the effect texting or dialing a cell phone can have on the ability to operate a vehicle.

“If this helps save lives, we have to get this in front of every driver so they can see the effects of distracted driving,” First Selectman Michael Tetreau said after watching 11-year-old Nick Fech try to drive while talking on the phone, dialing and texting on a computer simulation.

“If we can save one life with this program we’d be happy,” Fairfield Police Lt. James Perez said. “I think we’ll be saving a lot more.”

Perez said events such as Saturday’s help raise awareness of the dangers, graphically illustrated with photos of horrific accidents and an open coffin in the gazebo on Sherman Green.

Explorers asked all drivers, regardless of age, to sign a pledge to not text while driving. The Fairfield Police Explorers are part of the “U TXT UR NXT” campaign, supported nationwide by a $32,500 grant from State Farm Insurance.

On behalf of State Farm, agents Steve Boyle of Bridgeport and Mark Otterson of Fairfield presented the Police Explorers a $5,000 grant to help them continue their work with teen driving education.

“This will be an annual event,” Boyle said. “We’ve already got ideas for next year.”

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