Road safety lessons come early for Scouts

Friday, June 25, 2010

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Haileigh Fisk, 11, of Lusby reads a pressure gauge while checking a tire's air pressure during the DASHboard Road Safety Patch Program at Gilbert Run Park in Charlotte Hall on Monday. The program was offered by the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital.

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Staff photo by KRISTEN GRACE
Emily Simonson, 12, of California, Md., races to buckle her seatbelt during a relay race as part of the DASHboard Road Safety Patch Program offered by the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital at Gilbert Run Park in Charlotte Hall on Monday.

They might be too young to be designated drivers, but on Monday teen Girl Scouts from Southern Maryland learned all about texting while driving and other important advice for maintaining road and pedestrian safety.

During an annual one day camp this week at Gilbert Run Park in Charlotte Hall, teens spent a day participating in the DASHboard Road Safety Patch Program, sponsored by the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital and GEICO.

The girls learned safety tips through various activities such as the seat belt relay, distracted driving scenarios and activities where they wore impaired driving goggles.

Kaitlin Hasseler, program specialist with the Girl Scouts Council, said the goal of the program was to provide the girls with complete road safety, whether behind the wheel as a passenger or as a pedestrian around cars.

Hasseler said the program is aimed at girls in grades 6 to 12 and that it was absolutely OK for teens not at driving age to participate because of the lessons they learn about pedestrian safety and how to be a responsible passenger.

Catherine Springer, 14, of Waldorf said the program was a lot of fun and that learning about safe driving was good for her even if she could not drive yet.

"We're the ones distracting people," she said.

One of the activities on Monday was called distracted driving.

Four girls at a time piled into a five-passenger parked car, with one of the girls in the driver's seat. While the car remained in park the girls were given scenarios to act out in order to distract the driver who was pretending to drive the car.

Erika Cabot, 11, of Fort Washington took the driver's seat as Teresa Cogar, 11, of Leonardtown was the front-seat passenger; two other girls took positions in the back seat for one of the scenarios.

The girls were asked to convince the driver that her hair and makeup were not done properly and that she needed to fix it before arriving at the destination.

Teresa held a tube of lipstick in her hand and waved it around next to Erika demanding that she fix her makeup. The girls in the back used various methods of yelling and pleading to get Erika to fix her hair.

Erika said she quickly saw how distracting that situation was and each girl agreed that had she actually been driving it might have gotten dangerous.

The seat belt relay encouraged girls to see how quickly four girls could fasten seat belts, then rotate through each seat in the car and repeat the procedure at each seat. It took just about a minute to rotate four girls through the seats to fasten seat belts.

Hasseler said the lesson was not to see which group could do it the fastest, or how quickly it could be done, but to show the girls how it takes about 5 seconds to fasten a seat belt.

"Is there a reason why you would not take those 5 to 7 seconds to put it on?" Hasseler asked.

For the next activity, Scout Mary Kendra Gleason, 14, of Leonardtown warned the girls, "You might fall. You will get dizzy and you will stumble."

"Wow," Haileigh Fisk, 11, of Lusby said after putting on impaired driving goggles for the first time and attempting to walk in a straight line. The goggles simulate how a person reacts when intoxicated.

"You couldn't see anything; it was all disoriented," she said after the activity.

Haileigh said what she learned from attempting to walk straight and trying to catch a tennis ball while wearing the goggles was to "never get drunk."

Girls participating in this activity agreed that it was difficult to pick up a set of toy keys off the ground or catch a ball while wearing the goggles and that it likely would be a bad decision to attempt to drive a car while under the influence of alcohol.

Girls also completed a road-safety quiz, learned basic auto maintenance such as checking a tire's air pressure and learned safe-driving tips such as not texting while driving. Hasseler said rather than a driver texting, the passenger could volunteer to answer a text message if the driver feels that texting is necessary right away.

The passenger then becomes the DT, or the designated "texter," Hasseler said.

Scouts had the opportunity to earn a road safety patch for their successful completion of the daylong program.

Younger Scouts enjoyed other camp-like activities Monday, and during the rest of the week Scouts of all age groups were scheduled to participate in several local trips including a visit to the Calvert Marine Museum and swimming at local pools.