Ryan Zimmerman visits McLean for Phones Down, Home Run press conference

Campaign against distracted driving held at McLean

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Ryan Zimmerman visits McLean for Phones Down, Home Run press conference

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On May 10, McLean High School hosted the Phones Down, Home Run press conference on the practice softball field. The initiative is aimed towards raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. The decision to hold this event at McLean was influenced by the results of an activity held in the cafeteria earlier in the year, which prompted students to write down what helps them most with stress.

“[During the activity,] an overwhelming number of students said going out for a drive,” Sources of Strength advisor Nick Corsi said. “[Additionally] with the Fairfax County youth survey, 48% of our students identified that they are texting and talking on the phone while driving.”

The Sources of Strength club, the leadership class, and the varsity softball and baseball teams were invited to the conference, along with groups from nearby schools. During the event, a variety of speakers were invited to present their experiences, including representatives from Transurban, Partners for Safe Teen Driving, and Inova Trauma Services.

Sources of Strength peer leader and McLean sophomore Carenna Slotkoff also took the podium during the press conference.

“Everyone is at a risk for [distracted driving],” Slotkoff said. “It’s something that can be ended if everyone is proactive in limiting their possible distractions. I know so many people who are distracted drivers, and it’s scary to think about the potential threats they face or could cause just because of a distraction like a simple text.”

Through raw facts and personal stories, the speakers emphasized the importance of not being distracted while driving. The goal was to further educate and impact young drivers on the potentially deadly effects; data shows that Virginia counties that are a part of the Phones Down, Home Run initiative have significantly lower accident rates that are attributed to distracted driving.

“After watching the press conference and hearing all the statistics about how dangerous distracted driving is, I have made a conscious effort to put my phone down while driving and I have encouraged my parents and friends to do the same,” varsity baseball player Ryan Dahlseid said.

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman made an appearance at the conference to speak to the attendees. Zimmerman has partnered with the campaign to help address the dangers of phone use when behind the wheel.

“Wait until you get there [to use your phone]…five or ten minutes isn’t going to change anything,” Zimmerman said in an interview with The Highlander. “It seems like it is at the time, you know…you think it’s so urgent. It really doesn’t matter whether you wait ten minutes to get where you’re going; if you don’t respond as soon as they text you, they’re not going to shut you out of their life or never talk to you again.”

After the speakers finished their presentation, students were invited to sign a pledge to put their phone down while driving. Zimmerman and the rest of the campaign hope that the conference will have a positive effect on students and help lower the number of distracted driving accidents.

“Most of the time everything works out in the end,” Zimmerman said. “You can just wait, it’s not that big of a deal.”