2011-05-05 / Front Page

SFHS Students Learn About Safe Driving

Rural Road Safety presentation given by local Farm Bureau
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Tears streaming down her face, Nita White begged senior high students at the Southern Fulton School District to “be careful and make good choices” when sitting behind the wheel of an automobile.

White told the captivated audience of students attending a Rural Road Safety presentation Monday she never realized she would be the one affected by a fatal crash or that her life would forever be changed on September 27, 2010.

The mother of the late Matthew Weller, White said she vividly recalls the Pennsylvania State Police trooper arriving on her Warfordsburg doorstep to tell her that her 17-year-old son had died in a traffic accident. Also claimed in the 9:10 a.m. accident near the village of Dott was Weller’s passenger and girlfriend, 15-year-old Destiny Knable.

Weller lost control of his southbound 1997 Saturn SC2 on the rain-soaked roadway just east of the intersection of White Oak Hollow Road, state police said. The car fishtailed and slid broadside across Great Cove Road and the berm where it struck a utility pole with its right front corner. The force of theimpact caused the vehicle to spin into a tree nearly 30 feet away.

Speed was a primary factor in the crash, and only Knable was using a seat belt, police investigators concluded in their reports.

White stated because of her son’s decision to hurry to school, Knable would never have the opportunity to graduate from high school or live her life.

“The decision you make behind the wheel can change your life forever ... . It can happen to any one of you,” stated White. “... If Matt and Destiny meant anything to you, don’t get behind the wheel of your car and speed or text ... . Promise me you won’t do the stupid things that Matt did.”

Needmore Volunteer Fire Co. EMT Stacy Barnhart added to the hour-long presentation hosted by the Fulton County chapter of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau with an array of statistics geared toward the commonwealth. Barnhart said in Pennsylvania alone, 1,100 individuals are fatally wounded annually in traffic accidents. Making note of the number of students in attendance, Barnhart pointed out in a short time span of 50 days everyone in the room could die in a collision.

Barnhart was the first emergency responder on the scene of the Weller/Knable accident where both teens were pronounced dead by Fulton County Coroner Berley Souders as a result of blunt force trauma. Fellow EMT Bob Fleegle stated he considered blunt force trauma to be the second leading cause of automobile accidents only outshined by stupidity. Meanwhile, EMT Lisa Fleegle outlined for those on hand how a vehicle responds to impact at a high rate of speed within a period of one second. When the rear seat begins to move forward at seventenths of a second, it doesn’t matter to the driver because he’s already dead, said the EMT.

The cost of being involved in an accident, Farm Bureau representative and event organizer Marlin Lynch said, can include fines, medical fees, physical damage, legal fees, lawsuits, an increase in insurance costs as well as ongoing embarrassment and stress. Lynch reminded the students they can never know for sure what’s lurking around a bend in the road. It may be a white-tailed deer, a cow, farm equipment or even an over-sized load.

Fatalities on rural roadways occur at a rate 2.5 times greater than other highways, said Lynch, who added factors include high speeds, the increasing rural population and twisty roads. Furthermore, motorists should also use caution when approaching or passing vehicles displaying a slow-moving vehicle emblem, which is indicative of vehicle’s travelling slower than 25 miles per hour, he said.

“Safety is number one,” Lynch stated.

State Farm Insurance agent Sharon Elbin of Hancock, Md., detailed ways in which students can reduce insurance expenditures. In addition to avoiding tickets and accidents, Elbin stated students and parents can take advantage of several costsaving measures such as multicar discounts; good students discounts for full-time students maintainingaBaverage;driver training discounts; and Steer Clear discounts. Elbin further suggested students could help reduce the number of teen fatalities by always wearing their seat belts.

State police Trooper Gary Hibner reminded students of the various penalties in place for individuals responsible for causing a fatal crash as well as the benefits of wearing a seat belt. Hibner said ejections were not limited to sunroofs but can just as easily happen through a windshield and side window.

“You need to think of the consequences,” the trooper noted.

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