Reaching their audience of young drivers was vital. Almost weekly, it seemed, the TV news aired another tragedy involving someone just starting out behind the wheel.
But traffic team members for the Holly Springs Police Department were having trouble connecting through the accident statistics and video presentations of a nationally-recognized safe driving program.
So Sgt. Ray Tyndall and Officers Alan Laws and Mitchell Ham designed their own interactive course. They chose videos – some serious, others in a lighter vein - that teen-agers today would relate to better. Classes became more about two-way communication. Students tested their skills on a driving simulator and tried on “drunk goggles” while waiting their turn. They saw the “breath bus” used at checkpoints.
After having been frustrated by reckless young drivers who “just didn’t get it,” Tyndall, Laws and Ham see signs of success in getting through to those who are just learning to drive.
The traffic team’s own “Survive 2 Drive NC ” program has enabled the Holly Springs officers to earn a statewide award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. On Feb. 6, the N.C. chapter of MADD presented the trio with its Hero Award in underage drinking prevention.
The Survive 2 Drive initiative for 15- and 16-year-olds has been endorsed by MADD. It has drawn interest from other law enforcement agencies in the state.
“It says a lot about your program when other people want to use it,” Laws said.
The Holly Springs police unit has presented Survive 2 Drive to hundreds of students in driver’s education classes at Holly Springs High School. Students have been more engaged than those taught the previous way.
Results from an anonymous survey showed the class changed the students’ views on underage drinking. Nearly all recommended the class and said it would help them better resist peer pressure to drink before they turn 21.
The three officers, known formally as the Traffic Negotiation Team, believe that education, prevention and enforcement go hand-in-hand.
In addition to work in schools, the team shares the word on driving safety with homeowner associations and civic groups and at public gatherings such as the Holly Springs Farmers Market.
As for Survive 2 Drive, Tyndall, Laws and Ham are prepared to adapt it as needed. They want to ensure it remains a “real life” program that hits home on the danger young drivers can face behind the wheel.
“I think [many] adults just don’t know how to approach kids about it, how to get them to be forthcoming,” Laws said.