Drive Safe - Drive Smart Program helps teen drivers

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Approximately 30 people, mostly parents and teenagers gathered at the Fortuna Fire Hall last month, to hear a presentation from the Humboldt County Youth Driving Coalition. This presentation was given in Spanish, geared toward the mostly Hispanic audience. Those gathered heard from representatives from the Fortuna Police Department, Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department (FVFD), Department of Motor Vehicles, and California Highway Patrol. There was also a demonstration of the Jaws of Life, given by FVFD.

"We're here to provide information, not write tickets," California High Patrol Office Paul Dahlen said. "It's okay to ask questions," he encouraged the group. During the power point presentation, parents and teenagers asked many questions of the presenters and received information about how to get a driver's license, common mistakes young adults make while driving, and tips for safe driving.

Humboldt County statistics presented at the gathering pointed to a connection between young drivers and accidents that can be fatal. 31 people between the age of 16 and 24 were killed in vehicle-related accidents in Humboldt County during a two year period from 2007-2009; and 70 percent of young drivers involved in collisions were at fault for the crash.

Common mistakes young adults make include traveling at unsafe speeds, following too close to another vehicle, inattention or distractions while driving, driving while drowsy or upset, and driving under the influence.

Tips for safe driving include: make sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seatbelt at all times when the vehicle is moving; keep both hands on the wheel; keep a high visual horizon and scan the area constantly; beware of blind spots; obey the speed limit; reduce speed in bad weather; keep your vehicle in good working order, and

drive defensively. The bottom line: give driving your full attention. Drive alert and free of distractions. Drive sober, and be courteous.

Fortuna Police Officer Ryan Richardson and Department of Motor Vehicle representative Angelica Matias presented information about obtaining a Learner's Permit, and Provisional Licenses. The evening concluded with a demonstration of the Jaws of Life, coordinated by Fortuna Volunteer Fireman Ted Silva. The Jaws of Life were used to extricate several "victims" from an automobile, in a simulation of what might be required in the event of an vehicle accident.

Events of this type have already been held in Rio Dell, Eureka, and McKinleyville. Several local businesses donated food and other items to the gathering in Fortuna. Special thanks to the sponsors including HealthSPORT, Eel River Hydroponics, Shotz Coffee, Rite Aid, El Buen Gusto, Safeway, Ray's Market, Spotlight Video, Taco Loco, Longboard Subs and Ace Hardware.

photo caption:

Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

The Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department conducted a demonstration on the use of the Jaws of Life in conjunction with vehicle accidents at its recent program for teen drivers.