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'The Right Choice' Program Aims To Reduce Driving Dangers

5:05 AM, Aug 18, 2010   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Since May, WFMY News 2 has encouraged people to cut down on distracted driving by putting down their cell phones and take the "Great Hang Up" pledge.

The issue of distracted driving has also become an increasingly larger part of a court-related program. Judges order people to attend "The Right Choice" program in Guilford County as part of their sentencing or plea bargain.

They're not there for drunk driving, instead Michael Jackson, executive director of the Crash Prevention Network, said the attendees are in the program for "minor" traffic violations that have potentially major consequences.

"Our program is designed to try to call attention to seatbelt safety, texting, cell phone use and the number one killer in America is speed," he said.

The danger of cell phone use is becoming a larger topic in the sessions, Jackson said.

"It's beginning to be more of a problem on the highway. You know, a few years ago we didn't have to worry about texting because there was such thing as texting. In fact, it hadn't been that many years since you didn't have cell phones," he said.

Jackson said so far judges have not sent anyone to the sessions for texting, though he's anticipating that soon.

Michael Herring knows the dangers of texting. He said he attended this month's "The Right Choice" because he was involved in a motorcycle crash and did not have his motorcycle endorsement. He said texting was the cause of the crash.

"The lady was texting using her phone and she never seen me, so I'm a big advocate for that. Definitely, whenever I see somebody texting, I'll blow my horn or make them get off of it," said Michael Herring, who said he had to attend the session

People who attend "The Right Choice" also hear stories about other dangers, including drunk driving.

Becky Kennedy lost her only daughter, Emily May, in a drunk driving crash. She urged attendees to make the right decisions before they ever start drinking. Kennedy established emilysplea.com

Former WXII news anchor Tolly Carr, who spent two years in jail after he killed a man while driving drunk, was among the speakers Tuesday night.

"I take full responsibility for what happened," he said.

"I would hope that at least from the visibility of things that happened with me that people could look and at least think twice about any high-risk choices that they may make in their own lives," Carr said.

Carr said he originally became involved with Jackson to fulfill community service requirements. He said he continues to spread his message with the group, even though his community service requirements have been fulfilled.

"The Right Choice" completed it's first year Tuesday night. The sessions are held each month. Attendees go to one meeting. They get a certificate, which they must take back to a judge as proof they attended. They also pay $20 to attend. That money pays for similar driving-related programs in high schools.

"I really didn't think it would help me, but it has had a major impact on me tonight. I come out of here in tears," said Stephanie Cook, who attended because of a seatbelt ticket.

She said her brother-in-law, who she never met because he died in a crash, was part of the presentation. She saw his picture on the projection screen.

"I know what my family, my in-laws, go through every day after all these years. It just really made a major impact on me. I will never look at (driving) the same again," she said.

Jackson said the program started in Guilford County and has spread to Person and Caswell Counties. He's also working to start "The Right Choice" in Randolph County, with hopes to take it statewide eventually.

TAKE THE GREAT HANG UP PLEDGE

WFMY News 2

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