Davie student focuses on keeping teen drivers safe: Davie student starts safety effort
Mar 08, 2009 (Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Like any other teenager, Rocky Kaller was excited to finally have his driver's license. However, hitting the road for the first time by himself, he became more aware of a growing problem among motorists.
The junior at University School in Davie saw that other drivers were more concerned with taking a call or sending a text message than focusing on what's going on around them.
With the blessing of his family, Project Stop Texting and Talking in Cars, or STATIC, was born.
"I opened up the project last school year and began to spread the word," said Kaller, 17. "This year, we continued to recruit members and began to raise money. We have been progressing since we started."
Watching NBC's Today show, Kaller found out about Virtual Driver Interactive, a company that specializes in driving simulators.
Through donations, Kaller was able to secure two simulators for his school for a month. About 200 students used the simulators in the first two days of use. The simulator gave them a chance to see what it was like to drive in all kinds of weather and situations, with cell phone in hand.
"Views are scattered with some students saying, 'Listen. It's just a video game. It's no big deal.' I tell them, really, if it happens in real life, you just don't restart the level. You don't come back from a crash in real life," Kaller said. "Some of them took that into account. Some of them said to me that they're not going to text and drive now. They understand what we're trying to say. The majority of the school believes in it."
Bunny Blattner, alumni coordinator at University School, works with various students on community service projects.
"The students have been very responsive to his work. His enthusiasm and incredible commitment to the project is infectious," she said. "We all understand the dangers of texting and talking while driving. The issue is to make all aware that it could happen to anyone. It is not just students who are doing it. It's parents and teachers, too."
The school has been supportive of Kaller's ambition and growth of STATIC. Donna Poland, Upper School director at University School, believes his project will serve as a model for students.
"He has captured the essence of a growing problem that traps our young drivers: inexperience behind the wheel and the love of text messaging and talking on the phone," she said. "If he can save one life, we believe his efforts in bringing STATIC to our school will have been rewarded."
Kaller has many plans for STATIC over the next year. The 18 members of his organization are moving forward on expanding STATIC to other schools in South Florida.
He is talking with people associated with the Drug, Alcohol, Traffic Education course about implementing a texting and talking section in the curriculum. One of the organization's goals is to bring the concept up to the Florida Legislature.
"Hopefully, they will take into consideration the importance of STATIC and its meaning to the community," Kaller said. "Texting and talking on the cell phone deteriorates the driver's reaction time by 35 percent ... This is the number one distraction of all teenagers behind the wheel."
Project STATIC is working on getting a Web site. In the meantime, Kaller said people who want to get involved can call Blattner at 954-262- 4403.
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