Parker Thompson says he feels 100 per cent safer on a race track driving at 270 km/h than travelling the streets of Red Deer.
“My competitors and I have massive respect for each other. We know that we’re one crash away from not showing up to the next race, or maybe not even showing up at home.
“There’s that respect factor you just don’t find when travelling on the street from Point A to Point B,” said Thompson, 20, who brought his presentation, Drive to Stay Alive, to students at St. Joseph High School on Tuesday.
The Red Deer race car driver said distracted driving is a leading cause of death across Canada, and the problem is getting worse, not better.
Texting makes drivers 23 times more likely to end up in an accident. In North America, there are 1.6 million texting and driving crashes each year, and 11 teens die every day.
“Texting and driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving.”
Thompson said he puts his cellphone in the glove compartment when driving. When he asked students for more ideas to eliminate the temptation, they suggested giving the cellphone to their passenger to answer, powering phones down, turning off notifications, and lobbying government for stricter distracted driving laws.
But he said texting isn’t the only distraction — eating food makes people five times more likely to crash, reaching for a moving object makes it nine times more likely, and applying makeup or reading makes it three times more likely.
“A lot of people think distracted driving is simply texting and driving. They don’t realize that anything that distracts you behind the wheel raises your chance of getting into an accident.”
Thompson said fewer variables on the race track make it safer than driving on the street, and so do the many safety features in race cars, such as the five-point safety harness.
“A flimsy seatbelt and an airbag, and at 50, 60 kilometres an hour, it’s not going to do much to keep you behind the wheel. Even if you’re driving a big SUV or a truck, it’s still going to crumble like a cookie. Realize that you’re very vulnerable.”
Thompson told the students to take the responsibility seriously when they get behind the wheel.
“When you are driving, it is your No. 1 priority and your only job, and you must respect that job. Too many teens right now think that they can dodge the bullet, think they can multi-task behind the wheel, or they think they can get that last text out.
“That bullet will catch up to you sooner rather than later.”