In the time it takes to send a short text message, a car traveling at normal speed can travel the length of almost two football fields. It takes far less distance than that to result in a serious accident, the Hardy Telecommunications Youth Advisory Board was warned December 21.
Hardy Marketing and Human Resource Director Derek Barr shared several stories about the injuries and even death that can result from distracted driving. The high school students watched a documentary titled “Distracted: The True Story of Ashley Umscheid.” Umscheid was a 19-year-old Kansas State University freshman who was killed in May 2009 when her vehicle crashed along a Kansas road. The investigation revealed that she had been sending text messages on her cell phone while driving. The Foundation for Rural Service, which is associated with the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, released the film in an effort to warn teens about the dangers of distracted driving.
A state trooper in the video said that a car traveling 65 mph will travel the length of a football field in three seconds. It takes six seconds on average to send a text message, meaning the car will travel about 200 yards in that time.
Derek cited several other examples from news outlets: A Massachusetts teen who was found guilty of vehicular homicide and texting while driving after a crash that killed another driver; a woman who fell off of a 60-foot cliff in Alaska because she was texting while walking; and a man in Texas who drove off of a bridge just moments after he texted a friend, “I need to quit texting.”
“The frightening thing is how quickly it can happen,” Derek said. “Even if it seems like just a split-second, you could be heading into oncoming traffic or going off the road.” He advised students to pull off the road or use a hands-free device if they need to take a telephone call while driving.
“There is absolutely no reason to put yourself at that kind of risk,” he said. “It is never safe to drive while distracted.”
East Hardy High Junior Paula Smith said the video made an impact.
“It kind of hit home for East Hardy students,” she said.
Moorefield High Freshman Josh Ograbisz said Moorefield students also could benefit from the video’s message.
“It gave us insight into the dangers of being distracted while driving,” he said.
Also during the meeting, Derek demonstrated how he manages the Hardy Telecommunications website. Hardy uses an online content management system that integrates with other social media. Derek posted an article and photo about the youth board into the system, then showed the students how it immediately displayed on the website once he activated it, even sending an update to the company’s Facebook page linking to the article.
The board also toured the battery room at Hardy’s Lost River office, which is the company’s corporate headquarters. The huge batteries are part of the back-up systems that Hardy uses to keep services going in the event of a power outage. Even though the Lost River office has a generator, the company also maintains batteries that kick in when the electrical power fails.
Derek told the students that the equipment in the battery room becomes so hot on its own that two air conditioning units run 24 hours a day, even throughout winter. Otherwise, the batteries, which contain jellied acid, would overheat and the acid would seep out.
The back-up power systems are why a person’s landline telephone will continue to work even if there is no electrical power available. Each of Hardy’s remote units around the county has battery back-up power.
While the batteries would be drained quickly and cannot power Hardy Telecommunications’ entire system indefinitely, the back-up power provides enough time for electrical power to be restored or other power sources, such as a generator, to be set up.
The purpose of the Youth Board is to educate the students about Hardy Telecommunications and its operations as well as to get information from the students as to what uses of technology are most important to them. The board is comprised of six students, three each from East Hardy and Moorefield high schools, representing grades 9-11. Each student serves a one-year term. The board meets four to five times throughout the school year.
Besides Paula and Josh, this year’s board is comprised of Moorefield High Junior Krysten Ayers, EHHS Sophomore Ian Im, MHS Sophomore Makayla Miller, and EHHS Freshman RaeAnn Orndorff.