Nick Pope of Port Clinton, along with Trevor Brown and Tyler Gerner of Fremont, seniors in the Criminal Justice program in at Vanguard Sentinel Career and Technology Center of Fremont, have launched a project called “Don’t Check It, Don’t Wreck It!” The project is to inform the public of the dangers of texting and driving, which is now illegal in Ohio and 38 other states. The trio is trying to spread the word through their senior class project. They have designed bracelets, brochures, a power point presentation and a public service announcement, and with more donations are hoping to make t-shirts, more bracelets, thumb bands and a billboard.
The project honors Nick’s older brother Jonathan who was killed in a car accident on Ohio 53 south of Port Clinton on Dec. 24, 2009. Jonathan was a student and wrestler at Port Clinton High School. The driver who was reported to be responsible for the head-on collision that took Jonathan’s life was apparently distracted while driving.
The group has been working on the "Don't Check It, Don't Wreck It!" project since the first week of classes this year. Two years ago three Vanguard students were instrumental in Ohio House Bill 99’s passage, the texting and driving ban that is now being enforced. Pope recruited Brown and Gerner for their senior project that continues Vanguard’s leading role in helping keep drivers safe.
Trevor Brown, Tyler Gerner and Nick Pope with display board
On April 22 and 23 the students will be competing in the Ohio Skills USA Law and Public Safety Showcase state competition in Columbus, and they hope to then qualify for the national competition.
“Our group hopes to fulfill our dream of competing at the state and national levels and continuing to spread our safe driving message,” said Pope. “Ever since (the accident), my family and I have struggled with this loss, and Jonathan's death has impacted many people in this region. He has been our motivation for our public safety project. We would appreciate help and donations. We started this foundation in the name of my brother, and even the smallest of donations will help our cause.”
When asked if it was sometimes difficult to devote so much time to working on such a personally poignant issue, Pope said, “It can be a little hard to keep the project in mind all the time, but I want to take this project all the way.”
Brown also has a personal connection, as he has an aunt who ran into a telephone pole while texting. Gerner said that though his connection may not be as personal, he wanted to be involved because, “I would often catch myself texting while driving. If we don’t get this under control now, the way technology is going, what would be next?”
An impact has already been made at Vanguard. After the group made a presentation, Pope said, “There was a positive response, especially when our class saw the pictures. Kids here now don’t text and drive as much.”
After the state competition, the students plan to take their awareness campaign to other area schools. As their advisor Mark King points out, “Students also need to understand that for juveniles texting and driving is now a primary offence.” Teens can be fined and lose their license for up to 60 days on the first offence.
After graduation, Pope plans to go to Tiffin University, studying Homeland Security. He also has applied for a wrestling scholarship. Brown will also be attending Tiffin University, majoring in Criminal Justice and possibly also wrestling. Gerner will attend Hocking College, majoring in Wildlife Law Enforcement with a minor in Fisheries/Aquatics.
To learn more about or to contribute to The Jonathan Pope Foundation, go to www.indiegogo.com and search for “Jonathan Pope”. Wristbands are available from any Port Clinton DECA student. Brochures are being distributed at the Ohio Turnpike Plaza.
Statistics and help from the “Don’t Check It, Don’t Wreck It” brochure:
- In 2011, at least 23% of car crashes involved cell phones, 1.3 million car crashes
- The minimal amount of time texting takes a driver’s eye is off the road is about five seconds. At 55 mph, that would be the length of a football field with eyes off the road.
- Texting and driving makes a driver’s chances of getting into an accident 23 times more likely
- Even if using a hands free or handheld device, a driver’s reactions are delayed as much as having a Blood Alcohol Concentration at the legal limit.
- Of those killed in distracted-driving related crashes, 995 (18%) involved a cell phone as a distraction.
- 1 in 5 drivers of all ages confess to texting or surfing the web while driving.
To help prevent texting and driving:
- Past Time Device: will automatically shut off all phones in the car.
- Drive-Cam: records a driver’s activities and provides real-time feedback
- AT & T Drive Mode: a free anti-texting and driving app for Android and Blackberry phones
- Text-Free Driving Pledge: free at www.textinganddrivingsafety.com