As innovative technologies have allowed for faster, smarter and more efficient oil and natural gas production, many Oklahoma communities near the SCOOP and STACK plays are experiencing increased road traffic. With safety as a top priority, the oil and natural gas industry is actively involved in ensuring their drivers, as well as others sharing the roads in these areas, are equipped with information on how to remain safe while driving.
As part of this initiative, the Oklahoma Challenge and the Energize for Safety Coalition partnered with industry volunteers to host a youth challenge event at Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno. Over 600 high school and vo-tech students and advisors from northwest Oklahoma were in attendance.
Safety is paramount to oil and natural gas companies in these increasingly high traffic areas.
“You have a lot of large trucks going to and from operating sites, which are often located near communities with an abundance of families and students driving those same roads,” Katie Altshuler, who works in Government and Community Relations for Marathon Oil Company. “The primary thing we’re focusing on today is preventing distracted driving, as it’s the number one cause of accidents.”
One rotation at the event was a presentation by father and daughter Stephen and Isabella Anthony. Isabella survived a car crash last year on Turner Turnpike that killed her great aunt and two cousins when they were hit by a 17-year-old driver who was texting and driving. Their mangled car is a sobering visual used during the presentation to convey the very real dangers of distracted driving.
“My family has been devastated by this tragedy. But instead of being victims we’re trying to be victors and do something positive with it,” said Anthony. “So we go around to different places sharing our story. Sometimes when you just talk about statistics, the audience will forget about it. But they won’t forget the image of this car.”
Clifford Loveless, Senior DOT Specialist with Baker Hughes, noted a primary goal of the event is for students to leave with a greater knowledge and appreciation for safe driving so they’ll take that information back to their schools and spread the word.
“Some feedback I’m receiving from students who participated in the distracted driving simulations, is they realize their job on the road is to stay focused,” said Loveless. “At Baker Hughes, our drivers know we have a strict policy that cell phones are not allowed when a vehicle is in use. Having kids myself, I want these students to understand those safeguards are good for them, too.”
Knowing that young people are often more receptive to information presented by fellow students, the event was held in partnership with SkillsUSA Northwest Oklahoma, an organization that empowers and trains student leaders.
Tucker Hicks, a SkillsUSA member from Geary High School, was especially moved by Stephen and Isabella Anthony’s testimony.
“More people ought to hear it. It’s made me really think about the consequences of texting and driving,” Hicks said. “Not only how it puts me in danger, but what I could possibly do to families and anyone else involved.”
Another on-site simulation was the Share the Road Semi-Truck brought in by the American Trucking Association.
“The goal is to educate young drivers where it’s dangerous for them to hangout in relation to large trucks on the road,” said Byron Bramwell, Road Team Captain for ATA. “We’ve had such success with this program. When young drivers climb in the cab, they’re totally shocked. They come away with a total different perspective.”
Throughout the event, numerous interactive workshops and booths were available for students to explore. Booth participants included Oklahoma Insurance Dept., Oklahoma Operation Lifesaver, Pioneer Telephone, National Guard, Oklahoma Safety Council/National Safety Council, SAFE, Safe Kids, ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma, the American Automobile Association, Halliburton Equipment, and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.
Linda Terrell serves as the director of Oklahoma Challenge, an initiative focusing on teen peer-to-peer communication concerning the dangers of distracted driving.
“Today students not only learned about drowsy, drugged, distracted, and drunk driving, they were also educated on large truck safety,” said Terrell. “It’s a huge issue as we see more and more oil and natural gas exploration in this area. We’re so excited to see all these young people in attendance today.”
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