Sometime before next month’s high school prom, a diverse group of local community members ranging from educators to law enforcement officials to medical personnel to clergy to students and others will conduct an emergency exercise in an effort to draw urgent awareness to the dangers of distracted driving.
The exercise is called, “Every 15 Minutes” and is an educational experience that reminds youth, parents and community members of the dangers associated with driving while impaired or texting. Alexander Castillo is a senior at Los Alamos High School and a member of Los Alamos Youth Leadership “Team Grr,” which is comprised of about 10 students. The team has been conducting an ongoing survey over last several months to determine whether Los Alamos has many distracted drivers out on the streets.
“We stood on the corners of Diamond and Trinity, Diamond and Orange, Diamond and Canyon and in front of Starbucks on Central Avenue and found that 90 percent of the drivers under 18 were texting as they passed by,” Castillo said.
Lt. Jason Wardlow-Herrera of the Los Alamos Police Department explained that statistics show that while both are dangerous; distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to get in a crash than individuals driving while intoxicated.
“Los Alamos doesn’t have a cell phone law, but we do have a careless driving ordinance under which a driver involved in an accident can be cited who was texting or talking on their phone or applying makeup or petting their dog or exhibiting other distracted behavior while driving,” he said.
The upcoming “Every 15 Minutes” exercise will be staged near the high schoolprogram. Notice will be sent out to Los Alamos National Laboratory employees advising them of the emergency exercise and there will be notices around town and at the movie theater informing the public of the event.
“We want people to be aware that this is an exercise while at the same time getting the point across that distracted driving is hurting and killing people,” Wardlow-Herrera said.
New Mexico Department of Health: Substance Abuse Epidemiology Profile Report July 2011 (Youth and Adult)
Youth Drinking & Driving:
- National Average: 9.7 percent
- New Mexico: 9.7 percent
- Los Alamos: 14.5 percent
Youth Cocaine Use Past 30 Days (9-12 Grade):
- National Average: 2.8 percent
- New Mexico: 5.6 percent
- Los Alamos: 10.3 percent
Youth Other Drug Use (Meth, inhalants, Ecstasy, etc.):
- National Average: 8 percent
- New Mexico: 13.4 percent
- Los Alamos: 14.5 percent
Individuals Who Really Considered Suicide:
- National Average: 13.8 percent
- Los Alamos: 18.6 percent (4th highest)