Teens learn safe driving skills in the aftermath of tragedy

BOCES hosted an event on Wednesday to help keep teen drivers safe, just one day after four men were found dead after a crash off of Engles Road in the town of Oswego.
Mexico (WSYR-TV) -- Amy Holland is comfortable in heavy traffic. She's been racing quarter midget cars around the country since the age of five. Next year, she'll be old enough to get a New York State learner's permit.

"My parents, whenever there is an accident on the news or something, we talk about it and how that could happen to anyone and you need to be more cautious about the other people around you,” said Holland.

Amy's parents joined dozens of others at a responsible driving event for teens in Oswego County, just one day after four young men died in a crash. The wreckage was found Tuesday morning on Engles Road, near Route 7, in the town of Oswego. Investigators are still trying to figure out the cause of the crash.

In the meantime, neighbors say the stretch of road can be dangerous, as some drivers try to make their car fly into the air, using hills and bumps.

Reminding teens to be safe on the road is Ron Camp's goal each year when he organizes the Regional Awareness Program (RAP) for Young Drivers at BOCES in Mexico. When he scheduled the event, Camp could not have foreseen that he'd be addressing families the day after four young men were found dead in a car.

“You do not want to wake up and hear on the news what we heard this morning or wake up to have a sheriff's deputy or state trooper at your door telling you that something tragic has happened,” said Ron Camp.

At RAP, students get a hands-on experience, taking a field sobriety test, while wearing goggles made to simulate various levels of intoxication. Unable to see clearly, the teens said it was difficult to walk in a straight line or catch a ball thrown to them by a New York State trooper at the event.

Nearby, another simulator showed students what a roll-over crash looks like with a truck traveling at 25 mph. Dummies were quickly thrown through the windows. Teens also watched videos of loose objects in a car get tossed around in a crash.

There were statistics about texting and driving. Families of DWI victims shared their stories and pictures. Driver's education instructors brought their students. Organizers urged parents to help their kids develop a plan in case they are ever confronted with an unsafe situation on the road.

“Most parents say call me at any hour of the night. I'm here. But, in reality, how many of those children really call? How many make that call? We are hoping that we have instilled that in her, that she knows she can call us at anytime,” said Michelle Holland, Amy’s mom.

Seeing the consequences, hearing stories from families left behind, and walking in the shoes of a drunk driver offered some perspective, even for an experienced 15-year-old racer.

“Coming to this definitely wakes people up I think,” Amy said. “My dad always tells me that he's not worried about me. It's the other people and he always tells me speed is for the race track, not the road."

Advice from a teen used to living in the fast lane. For more information about the annual RAP for Young Drivers Program, visit www.oswegoboces.org.

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