MEXICO – In 2005, coordinators organized the first ever Regional Awareness Program for Young Drivers, nicknamed RAP for short. The program was prompted by several accidents involving teen drivers that year.
Today, statistics show that teen driving deaths, at least locally, have dropped dramatically.
Organizers hope the decline is due in part to their efforts and the success of the RAP program in getting the message out about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving.
Nationwide, vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death among young persons aged 15-20.
A statistic program participants hope to reverse.
Dozens of local and state agencies, community and area businesses have participated in the annual driving event, held in the spring to coincide with good weather and prom season when more teens are on the road and this year’s event drew hundreds to the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation’s Mexico Campus.
Oswego County STOP DWI, a partner with CiTi since the first year of RAP, along with the victim impact panel began the program which also included speaker Mark Moody from the Oswego County District Attorney’s Office; motorcycle awareness with ABATE; and a lot of hands-on, interactive activities from the New York State Police, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office, Oswego County Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Inc., AT&T’s virtual reality simulator, the Amy Stock Memorial trailer, and more.
A favorite among the visitors to RAP are the fatal vision goggles that simulate various levels of impairment that students wear while navigating through various courses, either with pedal cars, operating steering wheels, or even just walking through a course while wearing the goggles.
Student assistants are on hand to let the user know when they have veered off course or crashed, or worse, when they have hit a pedestrian on the course.
“This is not like a mock DWI (which many schools take part in every other year) where a false scenario takes place to send a message to the students of what could possibly happen if they make the wrong choice,” said Camp. “At RAP, the tragic stories are real and those lives are forever changed as the result of someone who chose to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. It’s a powerful real message.”
It is that reality which Camp says motivates him to continue to coordinate the program to educate students and their parents about the danger.
Camp pointed to the involvement of parents as one of the keys to the success of the program, noting that if a parent makes the effort to attend, it shows the student how important the issue really is to them and it opens the door to communication and developing a plan for the “what if” scenarios.
“If we can open that dialog between parents and their teens, that’s a great start,” said Camp.
For more information about the RAP program, visit www.CiTiboces.org.