On Thursday morning, May 6, 2021, Berwick Police Chief David Leonard and Assistant Chief J.P. Henry attended an assembly at Berwick High School to present high school seniors with information concerning distracted driving. Over the past few weeks, Berwick Police Department partnered with Destination Zero Deaths Regional Safety Coordinators from Acadiana Regional Transportation Safety Coalition of Lafayette and the South Central Regional Safety Coalition of Houma to conduct a Young Drivers Observation Event. Its purpose was to provide traffic safety education to local youth and reduce teen fatalities and serious injuries on roadways.
Four students were chosen as teen observers to join with a Berwick Police officer. Student observers recorded every driver that came through the school zone in the morning hours and documented whether the drivers were male or female, if he or she were wearing seatbelts and if they were distracted in anyway. The data was collected over a period of two days which resulted in 279 vehicles being screened. Of those screened, 43 were found to be distracted and 23 were found not wearing a seatbelt. The observed distractions ranged from cell phone use, applying make-up, no hands on the steering wheel, playing with the radio or just chatting with their passenger. The student observers also mentioned that they were surprised at the number of adults who were observed using their phones in the No Cell Free Zones.
After gathering the data, Berwick Police Department coordinated with Berwick High School and hosted an assembly on Thursday to share the data. Guest speakers were also present who shared their knowledge on distracted driving.
Lt. Oscar West of the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Dylan Ivy of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) were among the speakers present. Mayor Duval Arthur, Chief Leonard, and Asst. Chief Henry also shared information with the students about their experiences with distracted driving.
Also in attendance were Levy Firmin with La. Highway Safety Commission, Ron Czajkowski, Regional Safety Coordinator for Acadiana Regional Safety Coalition, and Cassie Parker, Regional Safety Coordinator for South Central Regional Safety Coalition.
Students were also given promotional items bearing distracted driving safety messages, sponsored by State Farm, to bring awareness to traffic safety.
Berwick Police Department would like to remind all drivers that cell phone use is prohibited in school zones. Officers will be in these areas for the remainder this and next school year to ensure that everyone is safe on the roadways.