WSU nurses present dangers of distracted driving

Weber State University nursing students and faculty depicted a mock auto-pedestrian accident March 20 at Bonneville High School to show students the potential effects of being distracted while driving. About 700 high school students watched the video clip and presentation.

“Some teenagers got into a car, and we see the female driver without her seat belt playing with her music and is texting,” said Marie Clayton, an adjunct nursing professor and BIS adviser at WSU. “Then we see a kid putting on his headphones and going out for a run, and the girl hits the runner.”

After the video presentation, paramedics wheeled the jogger and driver onto the stage to act out how this situation could look like in real life.

“The driver of the car lost a significant amount of blood, received a blood transfusion and was sent to the emergency room on stage,” said Heather Clark, the assistant nursing professor on the Utah State University campus, which shares the WSU nursing program.

Clark said the jogger’s heart went into dysrhythmia, requiring CPR, medications and defibrillation.

The jogger, after multiple attempts to save his life, “died,” and was zipped into a body bag and wheeled out of the auditorium.

“The presentation really set the tone for the Zero Fatalities presentation,” Clayton said.

Jon Kelly, cooperative nursing program campus coordinator, said that in conjunction with the nursing program’s 60th anniversary, faculty wanted to present a realistic message on distracted driving and its consequences.

“In 2011, nearly 23 percent of auto accidents, or 1.3 million accidents, involved some form of cell phone usage,” Kelly said. “Driving while distracted should really be called ‘driving while intoxicated.’”

According to the Zero Fatalities website, Weber County has the third-highest rate of auto fatalities in Utah behind the Salt Lake and Utah counties.

Zero Fatalities presented several more statistics in regard to distracted teen drivers at the event and brought a guest speaker named Angie Ratliff. Clayton said that a year ago, Ratliff was involved in a fatality due to being distracted while she drove to work one morning.

“She was driving to work and said she was thinking about a work project,” Clayton said. “She said she pulled out in front of a motorcyclist while pulling into a parking garage.”

Ratliff showed an image of the wrecked motorcycle to the students. The motorcyclist, who had a wife and two daughters, died several hours later. Ratliff was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was fined.

“She said that hearing any news that is accident-related will still set her off,” Clayton said.

Kelly said many students indicated that the scenes were intense and realistic.

“They had not considered behind-the-scenes medical care that occurred due to distracted driving,” he said.

According to Kelly, 82 percent of teens 16-17 own a cell phone, making education on distracted driving a high priority. He said he hopes the assembly helped students gain a vivid and dramatic impression of the potential consequences of driving distracted.

“Distracted driving kills,” Clark said. “We all need to do our part to increase awareness to what distracted driving is and how we can prevent accidents from occurring. I hope the takeaway message was loud and clear.”

Many of the students in attendance signed cards pledging to safer driving.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Clayton said. “You can’t control other drivers, but you can at least control yourself.”