Two groups working to stop distracted driving in Oxford Hills

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PARIS — In the wake of a crash that killed two local teens in January, two groups have sprung up to warn teens of the dangers of distracted driving.

The Distracted Driving Awareness group and the Impaired Driving Awareness Group of Oxford Hills are two groups with the same purpose: Stop the dangerous driving habits believed to have led to the deaths of Rebecca Lynn Mason, 16, and Logan Dam, 19, both of West Paris.

The Impaired Driving Awareness Group of Oxford Hills held its third meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Western Maine Community College. The group, consisting of parents, police and other emergency personnel, first met Jan. 24 and is working to become a nonprofit organization.

The group is led by April Barker, president, and Lisa Palmer, vice  president. Christine Lee serves as the group’s secretary and Tabitha Smith is the treasurer.

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At Tuesday’s meeting, they voted to create a historian position for the organization to document meetings and other group events.

Barker said the group wants to raise awareness of impaired driving in every form, from drunken driving, to texting to playing with iPods or GPS navigation systems. “It’s not just drinking or drugging,” she told other members at the meeting.

State police and several members of the Paris Police Department were in attendance, including Chief David Verrier. The group discussed a project to stake out areas of slow-moving traffic and take down the license plates of drivers who are texting, putting on makeup or otherwise driving distracted.

Verrier said his department could mail warnings to the owners of those license plates, letting them know their driving habits are dangerous.

He discussed efforts to break bad driving habits, including a highway safety course at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School set to start next fall.

Before the meeting, group members made distracted driving awareness ribbons in green and gold, the school colors, with a white stripe to symbolize hope.

In Norway, a younger group is working to talk to teens directly. Malaney Cassano and Lindley Edwards-Radcliffe run the Distracted Driving Awareness group, a younger group that hopes to reach out to teens as their peers.

Cassano said she knew Dam and was a friend of Mason’s older brother. She and Edwards-Radcliffe started the group about two days after the crash that killed the two teens. Her group helped to set up a benefit show for Dam’s family Friday night at Crazy 8. Spose, a rapper from Wells with a large following, is set to perform.

Edwards-Radcliffe is 21 and Cassano 22. Cassano said she hopes being close to the same age as teenagers will make it feel as though they’re hearing the message from peers, not authority figures. Their Facebook group has more than 250 members and they’ve held six meetings. They’re looking for active members to help spread the word.

Cassano said she hopes to convince teens to speak up when they’re riding with a distracted person driving dangerously. “I think a really small number of kids actually speak up.”

To contact Impaired Driving Awareness Group email: impaireddriversawareness@ymail.com

To contact Districted Driving Awareness to online to: http://www.facebook.com/groups/distracteddrivingawareness/

treaves@sunjournal.com

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