Police, SWCC partner on distracted driving program
The Red Oak Police Department and Southwestern Community College have partnered to create a distracted/impaired driving course.
Red Oak Police Chief Justin Rhamy shared details of the course with the Red Oak City Council at its regular meeting Monday, Sept. 18. Rhamy said the course was created after discussion with Red Oak SWCC coordinator Kattie Lewis to highlight the dangers of distracted or impaired driving.
“There’s just not many programs or information being put forth on the dangers of that type of driving. We have since come to a point where we’ve come up with two programs: a 10 minute program and a 25 minute program,” Rhamy said.
The programs, Rhamy said, will be offered to any school or venue they can make a presentation to.
“If all of us can be there in person, we’ll show a 10 minute video, and if we can’t, then we’ll show the 25 minute video,” said Rhamy.
The program had a soft unveil during the recent “National Night Out” event in August. Since then, Rhamy said a number of local businesses have approached Rhamy about participating in the program as well.
Also assisting in the program is Nina Todd, who tragically lost two children in a crash in Highway 48 south of Red Oak in November, 2010.
Lewis described the video, and said it shows images of what happens during distracted driving, as well as information.
“We want to represent the Red Oak Police Department, SWCC, and the City of Red Oak as best as we can. We want the council’s blessing. My role has been behind the scenes, putting the information together,” said Lewis.
Brad Baker said the video also includes first-hand interviews with Todd and Chief Rhamy, and others.
“Nina talks from the perspective of being hit by a distracted driver, being pinned in her car, and having her two children, who are both deceased, behind her. Rhamy speaks from the aspect of being a first responder, and they all speak about how the accident has changed all their lives. It’s very powerful,” commented Baker.
Lewis said she and her family have also been impacted by the dangers of distracted driving.
“There are so many people who have been affected by distracted driving. My family was on the Hastings Bottom. There could have been a loss of life, but there wasn’t, so that was fortunate,” Lewis advised.
The video coincides with a recent law which allows drivers to be pulled over by authorities if the drivers are using their cell phones and texting. Before the change, drivers could only be cited if they were pulled over for another traffic offense first.
Also being offered are copper lined sleeves, based on Farrady bags, which cut off cell phone signals and prevent your phone from receiving calls or messages until they are removed, making it less likely a driver will become distracted by their phone.
Red Oak Mayor Bill Billings said he had no doubt the information presented would be vital in helping to save lives.
“About 95 percent of the accidents on Highway 34 with drivers crossing the center line have been a result of distracted driving. Many have cost people their lives. And we’ve had a large number of fatalities in the last several years on the Hastings Bottom as a result of distracted driving as well,” Billings said.
Baker said their next step is to beta test the program and get young people involved. Some new interns with the Red Oak Police Department are going to bring together high school kids and college kids together and gain feedback.
“We don’t want to just throw this into the schools. We want to make sure it’s polished,” said Baker.
Plans are already in place to bring the program to area driver’s education classes as well.
The council plans to view the ten minute video at their next regular meeting, and a resolution is being drafted for the council to sign showing their support of the program.