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Fayette County Career and Technical Institute students learn rules of the road

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 8:09 p.m.
Jordan Hinds (center) with Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh Injury Prevention works with John Ellsworth (right), a senior at Albert Gallatin High School, as they operate a distracted driver simulator computer program at Fayette County Career and Technical Institute during 2013 Teen Safe Driving Summit, the first to be held in Fayette County. Evan R. Sanders | Trib Total Media
John Ellsworth, a senior at Albert Gallatin High School, operates an impaired driver simulator computer program at Fayette County Career and Technical Institute during 2013 Teen Safe Driving Summit, the first to be held in Fayette County. Evan R. Sanders | Trib Total Media
Joyce Ellis, the executive director of the Lemoyne Multicultural Center, speaks with students at Fayette County Career and Technical Institute during the 2013 Teen Safe Driving Summit, the first to be held in Fayette County. Evan R. Sanders | Trib Total Media

Seniors at the Fayette County Career and Technical Institute were involved in the 2013 Teen Safe Driving Summit, the first of its kind for Fayette County.

The summit was presented and sponsored by PennDOT District 12, AAA East Central, Children's Hospital, the Southwest Regional Traffic Safety Network and the Pennsylvania State Police and has been presented in Washington, Greene and Westmoreland counties in the past few years.

“This is the first time for Fayette County,” said Jay Ofsanik, the safety press officer for PennDOT District 12. “The technical school is the perfect venue for this. It allows the kids to get interactive.”

The driving summit consisted of three workshops.

The first workshop is a driving simulator that addresses distraction driving including texting, cell phone usage, peer distractions and other electronics. The workshop also provides information for the students about impairments including alcohol, legal/illegal drugs and fatigue.

The second workshop was titled Highway Safety Jeopardy and consisted of teams of students answering highway safety questions and competing for prizes.

The third workshop is Car Care 101 where the students learn basic vehicle maintenance including how to change a tire, checking fluids and other need-to-know tips to keep their vehicles in safe working order.

Dan Hoff, the technical coordinator and SADD adviser for the career and technical center, said approximately 144 students attended the summit.

Speakers included Joyce Ellis, the executive director of the Le Moyne Multicultural Center, and District Judge Joseph George, who spoke of the legal consequences of underage drinking and driving under the influence.

“You don't want to see me in the courtroom,” George said, adding that there is a mandatory 90-day license suspension for a first underage drinking offense and a one-year suspension for a second offense.

“That's when it's real,” he said.

Ofsanik said the previous summits have yielded positive feedback from the students and added that the importance of presenting such a program to high-school-aged students.

“We need to break the cycle here,” Ofsanik said, adding that it's difficult to change long-time habits of seasoned drivers, but teaching good driving habits early on has a greater chance to see positive results as the years go on.

According to PennDOT, vehicle collisions involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers from 2007 to 2011 totaled 349 including six fatalities, 20 major injuries and 66 moderate injuries.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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