North Hills High School students joined leaders from state and local agencies for a mock trial last week to kick off National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, held annually each April.
Student prosecutors presented student jurors with three cases that highlight the very real dangers of distracted driving. Cases included a driver charged with distracted driving for drinking coffee while driving, another for reading and responding to text messages from her boss, and a third for applying makeup.
The event was coordinated by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pennsylvania State Police, Ross Township Police Department and Impact Teen Drivers, a nationally recognized nonprofit that aims to create a culture shift among teens that distracted driving is unacceptable.
The Honorable Magisterial District Judge Richard Opiela, who serves Ross Township and West View Borough, presided over the mock courtroom.
The prosecution and defense took turns presenting each case and jurors were given the opportunity to argue their decision prior to reaching a verdict.
“To take your hands off the wheel at any time, even at a red light, is, in of itself, a danger,” argued Mikhail Serowick, a sophomore at North Hills.
All three defendants were found guilty.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens aged 15-18 in the United States, and taking your eyes off the road for just three seconds is the equivalent of driving 100 yards or the length of a football field blindfolded.
Modeling good behavior is particularly important when it comes to driving.
“Most teens are making good decisions behind the wheel, and we leverage this good behavior using positive community-norming to make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said ITD Executive Director Dr. Kelly Browning.
Fifteen North Hills students participated:
- Marina Bolinda, Grade 11
- Ella Crowley, Grade 9
- Ashlyn Fazio, Grade 9
- Tyler Green, Grade 12
- Niamn Greer, Grade 9
- Abby Krogmann, Grade 11
- Lily Love, Grade 12
- Sam Love, Grade 11
- Juan Oyono, Grade 11
- Alyssa Rosatone, Grade 12
- Sofia Rodriguez, Grade 9
- Kaylee Schindler, Grade 9
- Abby Rose Senchak, Grade 11
- Mikhail Serowik, Grade 10
- Asya Umutoni, Grade 9