MOUNTAIN VIEW, Ark. (KTHV)-- The Mountain View Police Department and the Stone County Office of Emergency Management are hoping to bring a mobile unit to the state for combating the problem of distracted driving.
Patrolman Donald Crispell is the leader of this program. He's researching what they need to get the message to teens. In law enforcement for more than a decade, Crispell knows his territory.
Driving along with the reporter, he says "This is the loop. This is where all the teenagers come to wreak havoc and spray paint their names!" Of all the things he's seen, one thing stands out above others as a nuisance.
"Distractions. Text messages. I've got a 16-year-old son that all he does is text message. Thank goodness he doesn't have his license yet! I drive a motorcycle off duty. And when you drive a motorcycle you have to constantly be aware of your surroundings and so it's amazing to see how many people are driving, looking down, driving, looking down with one hand texting. Obviously they're not looking at the road."
Crispell decided it's past time to do something to combat distracted driving. With support from State Senator Missy Irvin and other Stone County law enforcement, he's found his answer in a mobile distracted driving simulator. He describes it as the closest thing to being inside a car without being inside a car.
He says, "It's got three computer screens. You have to adjust your mirrors when you get in it, I mean it's just like driving a car." Crispell teamed up with Mountain View High School students--the key demographic for this program: "Th3 La$t M$G," a program they'll carry across the state which will include a video simulator of what happens when you text and drive.
One of the students in that first phase of planning--EAST Initiative member Marisa Damm. She says even though some of the founding students graduated this spring, the work will continue.
Damm says, "Having something hands on? It helps teenagers realize how harsh things can be! Because...we can hear it from our parents all the time 'You shouldn't do that. You shouldn't do that' but until we actually see what happens and the consequences from it? It's just going to go in one ear and out the other."
The team knows it will take money but Crispell says you can't put a pricetag on someone's life. And if their program they've chosen to call "Th3 La$t M$G" can save just one life, it'd be worth it.
Crispell says, "There are companies that do this exact same thing but they charge thousands of dollars a weekend to come do it. I would like this to be made available to anybody, anywhere."
Meanwhile, Damm says, "I may be leaving this year but I'm just a phone call away. And there are 8 people in my group that are just as active as I am and want to see this project succeed!"
These two live near some of the windiest roads in the state, with visitors coming from all over to visit the mountains and enjoy the small town of Mt. View.
But keeping their sights on their goal: bringing the mobile program to fruition--it's one of the best places to remind everyone--to just hang up and drive.