Hundreds of local teens get lesson in distracted, impaired driving

"Teens are our most inexperienced drivers"

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Hundreds of local high schoolers put the pedal to the metal and got a taste of the track at Martinsville Speedway, all to learn about safe driving.

Instead of racing 100 miles an hour, they rode tricycles and wore special goggles to see what it would be like to drive drunk.

"It's like you're really trying to look and focus on it, but it's not working so you're running over stuff," said Jaliyah Hairston, a 10th grader at Martinsville High.

The event was hosted by DRIVE SMART, a nonprofit dedicated to making roads in Virginia safer. On Wednesday, alongside state police, Henry County Department of Public Safety and other volunteers, they taught 400 local students the dangers of distracted and impaired driving.

"Teens are our most inexperienced drivers," said Janet Brooking, the executive director of DRIVE SMART, "They're very much vulnerable."

The kids also learned about seat belt safety, how to stop someone who's been in a crash from bleeding, basic car maintenance, and heard from Brad Hughes, a former police officer who lost both his legs in 2014 when a distracted driver hit him while he was directing traffic.

"Distracted driving is a serious epidemic that is killing our young folk every day," Hughes said.

A lot of the teens don't have their driver's licenses yet, but they said this experience behind the wheel is a lesson they'll remember.

"I can put myself in danger and also someone else's life in danger," Hairston said, "and that will not be happening."

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