Students raise awareness on safe driving

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Trying new things or jumping on the bandwagon can be a great thing in college. For some students, fully knowing what they’re getting into is not necessary if it involves service.
“To be honest, Dr. McGahan mentioned a service-learning opportunity and without knowing what it was about, I agreed to be a part of it,” said Callie Shermer, a senior psychology major.
The project Shermer agreed to be a part of is Project DREAM. The “D” stands for dedication to driving safety and betterment of one’s community. The “R” stands for reflection on how one has been driving, in order to adjust or continue current behavior.
The “E” stands for education. The “A” stands for action which involves using what one has learned to drive better. The “M” stands for maintain the course goals by spreading it to the community.
The project consists of a four mini-course series for high school students that revolves around the relationship between power, freedom, responsibility and the sanctity of life.
This project’s goal is to remind people how powerful vehicles are, decrease the number of car acciedents and wrecks as well as encourage drivers in the community to be more thoughtful and cooperative on the road.
“Our main purpose is to help others remember how powerful vehicles can be and hopefully help them understand that with power, you are afforded freedom, especially when associated with responsibility,” Shermer said.
Put simply, associate psychology professor Joseph McGahan said, “The basic idea is that vehicles afford power and through the presence of responsibility grounded in respect for the sanctity of life, vehicles give us enormous freedom.”
However, without responsibility, power is potentially destructive and even deadly.
Therefore, McGahan said, “If we can get high school students to help reach junior high school students, the high school students will be more likely to internalize the value of being responsible when they drive in the same way that my students and I will also, hopefully,internalize the value of responsibility and drive accordingly.”
McGahan has been working on this project since the mid ‘90s.
“While looking at a textbook that I used back in something like 1995 for my social psychology class, I noticed comments in the margins of my book that represented the gist of the current project,” McGahan said.
Even he was a little surprised to find the beginnings of his project.He also said he has been interested in driving behavior since he realized the prevalence of reckless driving when his daughter was very young.
Upon furthering her knowledge of McGahan’s project, Shermer realized she had a personal reason to commit to increasing driving awareness.
“I lost a good friend of mine a few years back due to drunk driving and since then, I have always been interested in wanting to help make the roads safer to travel on. If people were more aware while driving, wrecks and accidents would decrease, and we wouldn’t have to cope with as many losses,” Shermer said.
This project received $15,000 funding provided by the Good Neighbor Citizenship Grant from State Farm.
According to the ULM Foundation’s grant writer, Roxanne Smith, State Farm contacted her asking what ULM programs might be a good fit for the grant, and she immediately thought of Dr. McGahan and his team.
“Now that we have secured the grant and the project is moving forward, I will assist in brainstorming on how to implement and market the program as well as highlight State Farm as our partner,” Smith said.
McGahan said he hopes to expand this project over the next few years and challenge drivers in other communities to be more thoughtful and compassionate on the road.
“Our hope is that we can get junior high school students to reach children in elementary school to think about power, responsibility, the sanctity of life and freedom associated with driving well before potentially bad habits begin to develop,” McGahan said.
Shermer and senior psychology major Larry Mize said this project will be impactful to the community and on themselves.
“Getting those wheels turning in their head may make them choose to put the phone down, or pay more attention the next time they get into a vehicle,” Shermer said.
The project interests Mize because, “it not only allows me to help out the local community to think more deeply about driving and concepts like freedom and responsibility, but it allows me to become more familiar with processing and evaluating research.”
Smith summed up the need for this program best when she said, “Education about being more responsible behind the wheel is definitely a need in all communities.”
McGahan asked that if anyone wants to discuss the possibility of working on this project, they should contact him via email, [email protected]