HARTSDALE, N.Y. -- Westchester-area students at Maria Regina High School sat quietly and attentively through an hourlong session on the dangers of distracted driving as Greenburgh police Sgt. Robert Gramaglia and Officer David Zenon offered the first of the department's series of school visits.
The seminars began with a three-minute film re-enactment of a screeching, multicar accident that resulted in the death of several people as the result of a teenager "innocently" texting a friend.
"Texting and driving is a problem because everyone seems to do it," senior Dana Avolio said. "Having the police come and talk about it reminds you how an innocent thing can be dangerous."
Zenon followed the sobering video by offering statistics on frequency of accidents due to distracted driving that can be the result of eating, checking mirrors, changing radio stations and the use of cellphones.
"More than 28 percent of traffic-related deaths and injuries are the result of distracted driving or cellphone use," Zenon said. "It takes 4.6 seconds to read or send a text, and at 55 miles an hour, a car will travel the length of a football field in that time. What can happen in that shirt time can be deadly."
Gramaglia took his driver's education at Maria Regina 28 years ago under the instruction of teacher Harold Kivelevich, who coordinated Tuesday's program. Gramaglia said the police would be bringing the program into all the Greenburgh schools.
"Texting and driving has become a very real problem because it isn't taken as seriously as drinking and driving and everyone has their cellphones going all the time without thinking," Gramaglia said. "We will be visiting all the Greenburgh schools with this program.
The Maria Regina teens reacted to the somber video, a wrecked silver Honda the police brought to the school's front lawn and the harrowing statistics. Zenon also detailed the fines of $150 to $500 given to cell-use offenders and why the simplest distraction can cause so much damage.
Rachel D'Ambrosio, a senior set to graduate in a few weeks, said the police hit all the important points.
"We see older people, teens, everyone using cellphones while driving, so it seems like it is a problem," D'Ambrosio said. "You can have a bad accident in five seconds. We all have to have more careful."
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