Safe driving competition kicks off

Permian Road Safety Coalition and Shell have partnered with the app SAFE 2 SAVE to launch a three-month high school road safety campaign to train and reward student drivers in the Permian Basin for safe, un-distracted driving.
The program was announced at the Odessa Chamber of Commerce Wednesday with the founder of SAFE 2 SAVE Marci Corry, Scott W. Scheffler, executive director of the Permian Road Safety Coalition and Kevin McMahon, general manager of Shell U.S. Shale Operations.
SAFE 2 SAVE incentivizes drivers to break the habit of distracted driving. Users are rewarded points for not using their phones while driving. Points can be redeemed for free items and discounts at restaurants, local eateries, retail stores and more, a news release said.
The program is called #ArriveAlivePB” and the goal is to increase education and awareness regarding the dangers of distracted driving throughout the Basin. The program also will award good driving behaviors through use of the SAFE 2 SAVE app.
Participating high schools are Odessa high School, Lee High School, Midland High School, Kermit High School, Andrews High School, Monahans High School and Pecos High School.
The competition runs from Jan. 29 through March 29.
“We have a competition. And this competition is a safe driving competition to see which high school in the area can have the least distracted drivers and people are going to be able to actually even see a score for themselves on exactly how distracted they are behind the wheel, and everyone’s shooting for, of course, perfect scores …,” Corry said.
Corry added that there is $27,000 in cash and prizes to be given away from the Permian Basin Safety Coalition and Shell. She said the prizes will be distributed weekly.
“.. I want you guys to know the reason why this is so essential here in this area is that we all need to take responsibility for not teching and driving. And yes, I didn’t say texting and driving but teching and driving, because it’s so much bigger than just texting. It’s people on Snapchat, on TikTok, doing Zoom calls as they’re driving, emailing changing their maps while they’re on the road. It’s so addictive and our phones have this, you know, attraction in them that makes us just want to see who was it that texted us …,” Corry said.
People have to realize that they should put their phones down.
“This has to become a cultural mindset. And as you look at the Permian Basin and the numbers from the end of 2019 … even though this is only 2 percent of the population of Texas, it’s where 11 percent of the fatalities from car crashes are happening,” Corry said.
McMahon said he was proud to be on hand for the announcement and sees it as an opportunity for gain.
“… I think there’s two parts to the story where we all need to come together to work to improve our road safety driving behaviors and what a great program to do it,” McMahon said.
“… The future of the Basin, the future of our state and country really depend on the younger generation. It’s important to have them be a part of this initiative to improve their driving behavior …,” he added.
Corry said with the app you put a picture of your loved ones on the screen and it’s going to ask “Is it really worth it?”
“… Because at the end of the day, whatever we think needs our attention in the moment we don’t need to have that cognitive division. Driving is a very important task and we have to take it seriously. And we’ve noticed there’s a psychological change if someone can see a picture of their own family or loved ones, or the pet that is going to miss them if they don’t come home in their driveway tonight, because they chose to be on their phone,” Corry said.
Corry added that people will earn two points for each minute they’re going 10 miles an hour or more and not moving their phone.
Even talking on the phone hands free can make you just as likely to crash as if you’re texting.
Odessa Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Renee Earls said distracted driving is something everyone suffers from.
She said even though it’s a law people think they’re just going a few feet and they can text someone.
“… But I think this is something that as a parent when your student, or your child, starts driving you worry so much. And they are our most precious cargo,” Earls said. “They are the future of our community. So I love that you all are focusing on a competition. We all love money; we all love free food, and we all know there are great rivalries — healthy rivalries — here with our schools …,” Earls said.
She encouraged businesses throughout Odessa, business and community leaders to be good examples for this initiative.
“Our kids watch us when we don’t even think about them watching us, or they’re sitting at the light and they look to the person to the left who’s on their phone. It is an example. We need to really lead in that example and be that good example,” Earls said.
If it’s really important, officials said, have someone in the car text for you from the passenger seat.
“… Guys, this is really exciting that over $27,000 is going to be given away to students, parents and teachers …,” Corry said.
Sheffler said Permian Road Safety Coalition is thrilled to be part of this program.
“… Our goal is to really expand our outreach and to talk about the risks that are on our roadways and this program does a really great job of that …,” Scheffler said.
Statistics from 2019 show the number of crashes for 16 to 18 year olds show that more than 15,000 young drivers were involved in those crashes. Some of them resulted in very serious injury and deaths, Scheffler said.
As a parent, having a child out there is “scary enough.”
“… We want to make sure we’re preparing, not only our youth but the parents in terms of how we can all work together to raise awareness out there. … If you look at stats from 16 year olds to 20 year olds, we actually see an exponential amount of accidents 110,000 in the state of Texas. So while we don’t have the specifics for Midland, I can tell you we usually run about, about 10 percent of the state’s number so you can imagine that’s still pretty high number for the base … Looking at a preview of the numbers for from 2020, I have good news to report. It looks like we’ve had somewhere (around a) 20 to 25% reduction in fatal crashes in the Permian Basin. We weren’t sure we were going to get there in early COVID times. We saw a lot of distracted driving, mentally distracted driving … and that had a huge impact on those numbers,” Scheffler said.
Corry, who is from Midland, said formation of SAFE 2 SAVE stemmed from an accident she had in 1999 as a college student at Texas A&M University.
With four hours of sleep, Corry fell asleep at the wheel, overcorrected and saw an 18-wheeler coming at her.
“We were about to have a head-on and I flipped my car three times. The whole car was an aluminum ball. … I was 45 minutes outside of Midland, and I shouldn’t have survived. Twelve cars and trucks pulled over right away to see. Surely this is a fatality. And it wasn’t. In fact, I just have one small scar right here (on her finger). I was protected and I knew it was a miracle. But life is short, and I was you know only 20 years old … Thankfully, no one was killed or injured. But it really motivated me to start taking road safety seriously,” Corry said.
The introduction of the smart phone, she said, increased the number of crashes, fatalities and injuries.
“It truly does need our full attention behind the wheel, and I know there’s other people that are like me, when, you know, they’re in the Permian Basin and they think they’re invincible. We think that we have this invisible shield; like a cocoon. It’s like, this isn’t going to happen to me. Yeah, I can read stats, but will it really affect me, and truly 89 percent of Americans will even say I’m against texting and driving, but I’m the exception. I can multitask … That’s not okay. We don’t need to have nine out of 10 people here thinking they are the exception. We all have to take safe driving seriously …,” Corry said.