Driving school

Odessa High School Wins $1,000 in Distracted Driving Contest

ODESSA, Missouri — Students at a local high school are doing their part to end distracted driving.

In Missouri, cellphone-related accidents have increased 30% over the past five years.

Odessa High School students pledge to help prevent the statistic from continuing to rise.

The school came in 3rd place in the AAA Buckle Up Phone Down High School Showdown. Members of AAA Missouri presented a check for $1,000 to students on Friday.

The new program, which included 15 schools across the state, provided teachers with a safe driving education program and a contest for students to pledge not to drive distracted. AAA Missouri has partnered with the Missouri Department of Transportation to help raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

Winners were determined by the top three schools with the highest percentage of student engagements as well as a winner for the most engagements from family, friends, and faculty. Odessa High School had asked nearly half of its students to pledge not to drive while using a cellphone, to ask others to do the same, and to always wear a seatbelt.

One student participant, sophomore Trinity Alvested, said she attended a teen driving conference over the summer and became passionate about safe driving.

“With all the technology these days and especially as a teenager, you’re addicted to your cell phone,” Alvested said.

She is proud of her classmates who are also committed to helping keep Missouri’s roads safe.

“To see these kids actually participating and making the commitment is absolutely beautiful,” Alvested said.

AAA public affairs specialist Nick Chabarria said the contest was also a way to educate adults about the dangers of distracted driving.

“Our hope was that the students would get the information, learn to speak so that others would hang up their phones and go see their parents, family and friends outside of school and also share the message,” said Chabarria.

Currently, Missouri is one of only two states that does not ban texting to drivers of all ages. Only drivers 21 and under are not allowed to text while driving.

Data shows that 70% of all cellphone-related crashes in the state are to drivers over the age of 22.

Several lawmakers have introduced bills to strengthen the state’s distracted driving law this year.

Odessa students also got a taste of how dangerous distracted driving is on Friday.

The school has brought a car simulator for students to use.

Junior Nathan Rue said the simulator made him want to keep his phone somewhere out of sight while driving in the future.

“We’re not only trying to protect ourselves, but we’re also responsible for others on the road,” Rue said.