Joliet police tell students texting and driving don’t mix
By Brian Stanley Bstanley@stmedianetwork.com May 7, 2012 10:24PM
Alan Roechner, a commander with the Joliet Police Department, addresses juniors and seniors during a Project B.E.S.S.T. (Belt, Education, Speed, Stop Sign, and Texting) program at Joliet West High School Monday, May 7, 2012, at 401 N. Larkin Ave. in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 9, 2012 8:08AM
JOLIET — The statistics and stories got the attention of most of the students in the Joliet West auditorium Monday afternoon.
Unfortunately the shuffle of papers and pen movement showed a couple of them were likely distracted by an assignment that was due the next period. A pity, since they were there to be reminded of the potential consequences of getting distracted from something important.
Cmdr. Al Roechner gave a presentation to junior and seniors as part of the police department’s B.E.S.S.T. Driving program, which focuses on enforcement of Belts, Education, Speed, Stop Signs and Texting.
Seven percent of Illinois drivers are under 21, but those 7 percent are involved in 20 percent of the state’s serious accidents. Roechner has recently spoken to students at Joliet Central, Plainfield South and Joliet Catholic Academy.
“We’re trying to do this before prom to show the reality of what can happen when you make a bad decision,” Roechner said. “There were 11 fatal crashes (in Joliet) last year. Three of those victims were teenagers and two of them were students here.”
Roechner began by showing statistics and things to consider before driving after drinking, but the photos behind the words were from those 11 crashes and showed wrecked vehicles and locations some students could recognize.
“The girlfriend of one of the students (killed last year) was here for a morning presentation and had to leave,” Roechner said.
The second half of the presentation illustrated the dangers of texting while driving. While the examples weren’t as local, the audience was silent watching a young woman whose sister died while responding to her message. A young man who killed a bicycle rider while he was sending a text, a passenger who suffered brain damage when a texting driver struck a tree and a grieving mother also struck home with the students.
Many related to receiving and sending banal messages like “where u at” and “lol” that were deadly while behind the wheel.
“I’ll admit I’ve (texted while driving) before,” Roechner said. “And now I don’t. Seeing examples like this remind me why it isn’t worth it. If there’s a text you have to send or have to answer that’s so important it can’t wait until you get there, then pull over.”
The presentation cites a 2009 study that shows you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident if you text while driving.