PHS students help to make a point on the dangers of distractions

Message: Driving (or marching) while distracted can cause problems

Cable One Producer Ken Anderson, right, films members of the Prescott High School marching band — from left, Mia Davis, Alora Zimmerman, Lila Keane, and Brian Van Vorst — for a public-service commercial on the dangers of distracted driving. The students were blindfolded before trying to march and play their instruments to illustrate the importance of keeping a focused eye on tasks, such as driving. The commercial is the first of several that the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization and Cable One are producing in a region-wide campaign against distracted driving. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Cable One Producer Ken Anderson, right, films members of the Prescott High School marching band — from left, Mia Davis, Alora Zimmerman, Lila Keane, and Brian Van Vorst — for a public-service commercial on the dangers of distracted driving. The students were blindfolded before trying to march and play their instruments to illustrate the importance of keeping a focused eye on tasks, such as driving. The commercial is the first of several that the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization and Cable One are producing in a region-wide campaign against distracted driving. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

5 tips to prevent distracted driving

• Set cellphones to a “Do not disturb” auto reply. Chris Bridges of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), points out that iPhone and Android phones have the option in their settings. IPhones, for instance, have a prepared text message that states: “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.”

• If transporting a dog or cat, Bridges suggests securing the pet in a cage or crate.

• Plan ahead for snacks and meals. The American Automobile Association (AAA) website says drivers should eat meals or snacks before or after their trip. But if eating on the road is necessary, it adds, “On the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to handle.”

• “Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road,” suggests AAA.

• Children should be secured before getting underway. “Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of your vehicle,” AAA says.

Marching while blindfolded, and driving with eyes glued to a cellphone: What do the two activities have in common?

The similarities will become glaringly obvious soon, when a new distracted-driving public-service commercial hits the airwaves on Cable One.

Four Prescott High School marching band members helped to illustrate the point this past week, when they gamely donned blindfolds before trying to play their musical instruments and march at the same time.

As expected, chaos ensued.

The bumping into each other and sour notes were all part of the act. Even so, the students found the blindfolds to be a major deterrent. Amid much laughter and some doubts about the lack of subtlety in the message, they agreed that the blindfold distraction made marching difficult.

‘NUMBER ONE IS DRIVING’

Chris Bridges, administrator of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), said the TV commercial is the latest in a series of efforts by local officials to get out a crucial message about the dangers of distracted driving.

Although cellphones are the central focus of the pending commercial, Bridges said distracted driving comes in many forms.

Eating, talking, personal grooming, dealing with a pet, reading – they are all activities that can split the focus of a driver.

“Any distraction, you are essentially not watching the road,” Bridges said.

Yavapai County Supervisor Craig Brown, who serves as the county’s representative on the CYMPO executive board, sums the message up on the new commercial.

“At 50 miles per hour, one glance at your phone and you’ve traveled the length of a football field,” he says into the camera.

Off screen, Brown adds: “Every day, nine people die as a result of distracted driving. When behind the wheel, number one is driving.”

DISTRACTIONS CAUSE CRASHES

CYMPO, the region’s transportation planning group, began its campaign against distracted driving in 2016 with a series of TV commercials that equated driving to other activities that require concentration, such as flying a plane, conducting a surgery, and cutting down a tree.

Bridges said the campaign stemmed from an Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) report that listed distracted driving as one of the top reasons for crashes. Other factors in the crashes and resulting fatalities included speeding, seatbelt use, impairment, and motorcycle use.

After learning of the ADOT report, CYMPO staff posed a question to the organization’s executive board: “What can be done?” The board decided to focus on an education campaign about distracted driving.

The planning organization is partnering with Cable One to produce and air the series of commercials. Bridges and CYMPO Transportation Planner Bryn Stotler said Cable One is comping about $65,000 in assistance.

During the filming of the four PHS band members on April 6, Cable One’s Creative Director Krista Witherow and Producer Ken Anderson were on hand to guide the students through the steps.

Near the grassy entrance to the high school, sophomores Alora Zimmerman, Lila Keane, and Mia Davis, and junior Brian Van Vorst went through the steps, while Anderson filmed.

On cue, the students checked out their cellphones, played their instruments, and marched and played while blindfolded. They then went to board their school bus only to find their bus driver blindfolded as well. “The kids are dismayed,” the script reads.

Funding for the remainder of the ad campaign comes from Surface Transportation Program block-grant money, Bridges said.

In addition to the complimentary contribution from Cable One, the ad campaign contract is for $45,000, which covers a 12-month program, and the production and airing of six commercials. It also includes web-based marketing, which will target the commercials to cellphones, tablets, and Facebook.

The latest commercial could begin airing within the next week or so, Bridges said.