FUQUAY-VARINA — How do you get pre-teens and teens excited about safe-driving skills?
Host a free event with food, and bring “beer goggles” that give them a sense of what it’s like to drive drunk, along with a seat belt simulator and inflatable Ironman course.
In the midst of the fair-like atmosphere, kids get valuable lessons without all the preaching.
Fuquay-Varina is hosting the fourth annual Teen Day Fuquay on Saturday, May 10. The event has grown each year.
Kids ages 11 to 18 get a chance to test their skills on the town’s Drive Wise Course, which has obstacles that bring home the realities of texting and drinking while driving.
The Fuquay-Varina Fire Department will host a crash simulation.
“You can talk about drinking and driving, you can tell them, ‘This is what might happen,’ ” said Fuquay-Varina Police Capt. Jeff Dunn. “That’s not going to mean anything. Seeing it makes it real.”
Dunn said drinking and driving among teens isn’t a big problem in Fuquay-Varina.
“Our whole goal is we don’t want it to become an issue,” he said. “Our goal is no teenagers drinking and driving. If we can save one teenager from dying in a car wreck, then we’ve met our goal.”
The event aims to reach children before they start driving to encourage good habits early on.
The first year, Teen Day Fuquay drew about 700 people. Last year’s event drew more than 1,000, according to the town.
The event has proven a hit among youths. In a survey after last year’s festivities, 98 percent of respondents said they had fun.
More than half said the the most important thing they learned was “do not drink or text while driving.”
The most popular events were the Ironman course, rock climbing and the driving-while-impaired simulator.
Students who finish 10 of the 12 stations in the Drive Wise obstacle course get a free T-shirt.
The Seat Belt Convincer is another popular attraction that has a huge effect on students, Dunn said.
“It simulates a 5-mile-per-hour impact,” he said. “It’s not fast but the impact you feel when it hits is enough to make kids think, ‘If I didn’t have my seat belt on I would fly out of my seat.’ ”
Fuquay-Varina spends about $13,500 to host Teen Day. The N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program has partnered with the town for the event in the past.
“Teens are the least experienced drivers,” said Don Nail, director of the Highway Safety Program. “We know the more exposure they get to different situations it’s going to have some positive effect on their safety.”
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