The police officers and deputies who patrol the roads see some truly outrageous behavior behind the wheel. But would you believe the worst thing an officer sees is texting and driving?
Perhaps no one is more aware of the pervasiveness of distracted driving than local law enforcement. They also see the often deadly results of that behavior, which is why the Madison County Sheriff’s Office is taking a proactive approach to the situation.
Sgt. David Moody with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office told us, “From the time I leave my house in the morning to the time I go home just about every car I see, somebody is on a cell phone.”
Sgt. Moody said the worst thing he sees is texting and driving.
“I mean, they’ll be sitting and they’ll be going down the road and you pull up right next to them, you know, and they ain’t paying nobody any attention and they’re swerving all over the place. Of course, at that point, you stop ’em and advise them it’s against the law to text and drive.”
But the Madison County Sheriff’s Office wanted to do more than just stop people from breaking the law; they wanted to stop the behavior. So, five years ago, the school resource officers started a free distracted driving course. A one-day summer class for students age 15 and up.
“It opens their eyes. And that’s what we want. We want to get their attention.”
Sgt. Moody says after a couple of hours in the classroom, the students move to the parking lot. SROs ride with them as the drive through the controlled environment – first, with no distractions
“Then, the second time around, somebody – one of the other SROs will get in the back, acting as a passenger and they’ll go through the course again. But now, they’re being distracted.”
The SRO shouts questions, asks the students to read messages, and orders them to change the radio.
“And for every cone they hit, they’re counted off.”
The first summer the class was offered, around 80 students took the course. Last year, nearly 170 came through.
“Parents have seen it and they start making phone calls and say, ‘I want my child to go through that class.'”
But it’s not just the parents who see the value.
“Once they get on the course and go through the course, they tell us, ‘man, I didn’t think I would like this course but man, I’ve been taught a lot.'”
And that is why the deputies put on the class. If they can get through to the young drivers, maybe they will never be called to help them at the scene of a crash.
“If we can save one life, we’ve done what we wanted to do,” Sgt. Moody said.
This summer, the sheriff’s office will offer the distracted driving course at all five Madison County high schools, as well as Huntsville High School and Bob Jones High School.
The classes run from 8am to 3pm.
Here’s the 2016 schedule:
- Hazel Green High School: June 1, June 13, June 28, July 12
- Sparkman High School: June 3, June 14, June 30, July 18
- Buckhorn High School: June 2, June 15, July 1, July 14
- Madison County High School: June 29, July 15
- New Hope High School: July 19
- Bob Jones High School: June 27, July 13
- Huntsville High School: June 16, July 11, July 20
- Rain date, if needed: July 27
Students must be at least 15 years old and obtaining an Alabama Driver’s permit in the near future to participate.
Upon completion, students receive certificates – which depending on your insurance carrier – may lead to lower premiums.
To register for the course, see your school resource officer of contact Sgt. Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also click here to obtain the forms needed to register. Space is limited.