Video Review: On the Road Together: Teen Driving
Aug 27, 2009
by Kate Strong
In conjunction with the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, a man and a family tell about their experiences with automobile crashes to try and help teens understand the impact that driving accidents have on everyone.
"On the Road Together: Teen Driving" explores the dangerous world of distracted driving in the hopes of reducing the rate of teenage accidents. The program presents two similar but divergent stories.
Jeff Geslin was driving in his hometown when he got distracted, ran a stop sign, and struck another car. As a result, both the other driver and Jeff's passenger and friend Adam died. A few weeks later, Jeff was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
As part of his probation, he was referred to the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program. Now, he speaks in circles at nearby high schools, presenting his story to teach kids one very important lesson: always pay attention to the road.
The Remer family tells their own tragic story about drunk driving. Brianna Remer was twenty years old when she lost control of her car while decelerating coming off of the highway. Her car flew, flipped, rolled several times, and finally hit a tree. She was partially ejected and died immediately.
At the time she lost control of her car, Brianna
was intoxicated, speeding, talking on her cellphone, and had her
seatbelt off. The Remer family (her mother Pam, father Tim, and younger
sister Amanda) now tell Brianna's story as part of the same restorative
justice program to remind teens that their actions, no matter how
seemingly harmless in the moment, impact the lives of everyone around
Every teen who attends public high school hears a thousand stories about car crashes. This guy comes to the auditorium and talks about how much his family was devastated when he lost his brother, and it should succeed in forever changing your driving habits. And it would if there were not five hundred other students listening to the same story and your friend is jabbing you in the ribs trying to whisper something in your ear, if you did not have that big paper due in two days and all you have thus far is your name and class, if you had not stayed up so late last night on the phone arguing about the latest TV show's comedic merit and now it would be so easy to just close your eyes and fall asleep...
The same thing happens in the car. While driving, there are numerous distractions and all of them clamor for attention. Cell phones beg you to text your friend with the funny bumper sticker you just saw or call your buddy to make plans for the evening. That soda would be so quenching, especially after all those fries. This song is awful, better switch CDs. Oops, this road looks wrong, let me put the right address into the GPS. And Mom will definitely ground you if you are late for dinner one more time, better go just a little faster, there are never any cops on this road anyways. And, oh wait, your best friend is in the passenger seat yammering on about how much drama homecoming is going to be this year (you agree, it will be). You end up driving with your drink clenched between your thighs, cellphone clamped between shoulder and ear, shouting about who is going to ask who to go to the dance, and one hand punching buttons to get a little colder, a little louder, a little faster.
As Kris Miner, who works with the St.
Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program notes, although our driver's
education classes are the same, our roads are not. This is why Jeff and
the Remers, who each have directly experienced the worst that can
happen when driving becomes its most dangerous, strive to talk to teens
The program shows how they do that by filming Jeff and Kris sitting in a circle with eight or so teens at Prescott High School. The faces of the teens appear strangely young, unlined, beside the hard-bitten sun-ironed face of Jeff Geslin. The teens speak with blunt cadence, unopened expressions, plain language; but it is clear that they can and are willing to be impacted.
The circle is different than the standard lecture because a circle requires the teens to actively participate instead of just passively listen, and because the intimacy of a small group makes it so much harder not to pay attention. The emotional impact of Jeff's story is not lost on the teens as his unabashed admissions of both guilt and deep anguish penetrate through the myriad distractions.
When invited to speak, the
teens do not share bored textbook
responses. What they say demonstrates that they are processing Jeff's
story and trying to incorporate it into what they already think they
know about driving. This is the positive end Jeff, Kris, and the Remers
all hope to distill from the tragedy of roadside death. As Amanda Remer
says, the hope that draws the circle in high school classrooms again
and again is that even one teen will be reached. Who knows the full
impact that one circle with Jeff and Kris could have?
"On the Road Together: Teen Driving" is thirty minutes long. For information about how to obtain a copy, contact Kris Miner at SCVRJP@gmail.com or 715-425-1100.