Drive Safely — Your Life Depends on It

Nonnewaug Emphasis on Safe Student Driving


Curiosity of @NHSParkingJobs/instagram

The Nonnewaug senior parking lot displays student driver cars and the NHS senior lot with some exceptions of junior spots.

Sophie Pape, Reporter

Henry Ruggs, former wide receiver for the Las Vegas Raiders, got stripped away from his silver and black colors because of a fatal car accident which killed a 23-year-old woman and her dog. 

Ruggs was driving 156 mph with an alcohol level twice the legal limit just a mile from his home. He then hit the other car which lit into flames and burnt the victim to death. Friends and family of Ruggs have been nothing but supportive and cooperative to all parties at this time.

Former teammate and friend Derek Carr, the Raiders’ quarterback, told CBS Sports: “I will always be there for him that won’t change — he needs to be loved, and if no one else will do it, I will.”

As high school students, it is not out of the norm for kids to go to a party, get under the influence, drive home, and get into accidents that lead to devastating consequences. The brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25, so as a 22-year-old or a teenager, one isn’t fully able to make conscious decisions that lead to these incidents. 

In America, accidents are the leading cause of death in teenagers. They have little driving experience on top of lack of decision-making skills.

Nonnewaug’s Chris O’Toole, the school resource officer, gave his thoughts on student driving risks.

“I believe that [motor vehicle] accidents are the leading cause of teens because of speed and distractions while driving, [such as] phones, passengers, [and] loud music.”

O’Toole explained the dangers of driving.

“What I discussed at the student driver assembly was that a vehicle is a 3,000-pound bullet traveling down the road, and in a split-second lives are changed forever. When you travel at a high rate of speed, your reaction time significantly lessens and anything — snow, ice, road conditions, other things that require a quick decision — can cause you to be involved in an accident.” 

O’Toole stated that in his 28-plus years as a police officer, he has seen and investigated many accidents caused by speeding.

“It’s not too much to say that most drivers of any age exceed the speed limit, but exceeding the speed limit in addition to inexperience and distractions leads to disaster,” O’Toole said. 

Pamela Sordi, principal of Nonnewaug High School, explained her concerns with student driving.

“We continue to talk about the importance of safe driving,” Sordi said, “whether it be through programs like ‘Shattered Dreams’ in cooperation with the fire department — although due to COVID, we have not done this in the past couple [of] years — or discussion with student drivers as we did last week at flex time or individually with students at any given opportunity.”

At Nonnewaug, like many other high school students, accidents from students have happened, some resulting in a horror story the community never forgets.

“It is terrible to even think about,” Sordi said. “Accidents can happen and they are part of life; however, some accidents are preventable ones if only the driver had made a different decision. Things like reducing speed, staying focused from distractions such as cell phones, eating, reaching for something, or wearing a seat belt are all things that can help to reduce risk of injury. The frequency of accidents vary but any accident is one too many, especially when the accident was preventable.” 

The ability to drive is a privilege many take for granted. Teenagers get this opportunity to drive at such a young age. Being able to drive is exciting, but that being said it needs to be taken seriously.

“I personally think that getting your driver license at 16 years old is too early,” O’Toole said. “I would like to see the driving age moved to 18 years old. Driving is a big responsibility and lives can change in a blink of an eye, and I am not sure a 16-year-old (or most drivers) really comprehend the consequences of their actions.” 

Nonnewaug has taken into account that there has been signs of reckless driving from student drivers arriving and leaving school.

“Last week, the school administration and I had an assembly with all student drivers,” O’Toole said. “We discussed their driving behavior and the steps the school will be taking to slow student drivers down [like] speed bumps, radar signs, additional speed limit signs and more monitoring of their driving. I also try to regularly talk to drivers during the school day about their driving and the dangers of their driving.”