Professor works with charity to educate students about distracted driving

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    There is something dangerous on the rise. With every new generation, it gains momentum. Whether we realize it or not, we have all encountered it or perhaps even participated. It has reached all states, all cities and all roads. 

    It is distracted driving. 

    According to a Dec. 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center, the teenage and young adult age group is by far the most distracted one. 

    Forty percent of American teens say that they have been in a car while the driver used a cell phone in a manner that put others in danger. In the poll, 11.5 percent of 18 to 20-year-olds said they got in car crashes due to texting, while only 3.2 percent of 25 to 64-year-olds said the same. 

    As a significant danger to everyone around the country, many have taken a stand against it. That is exactly what Leo Newland, a professor of biology and geology, has done with a charity called Tire Rack Street Survival.

    Tire Rack Street Survival is dedicated to teaching teens how to drive safely in real life situations through educational sessions based on hands-on activities. The BMW Car Club of America, of which Newland is president, began the charity in 2002. They held their 500th educational session last month. 

    A typical session averages about 25 teens, Newland said. Starting in the morning, they learn in a classroom for an hour, start the driving exercises, take a break for lunch and then finish out the day with more driving.

    When asked what makes distracted driving so prevalent today, Newland said, “It’s really a cultural thing because people seem to have become obsessed with staying ‘in touch.’” 

    Tire Rack Street Survival provided two sessions for returning military veterans who have not driven in normal situations for a long time. The group is considering hosting more sessions for the military and also the elderly, Newland said.