March 20, 2015
When “Operation Driver Excellence” began 27 years ago by Hawaii Independent Energy’s predecessor companies, the goal was to create a friendly competition among Hawaii’s teen drivers to test their knowledge of safe driving. The event served as a final exam for high school students who had completed their driver’s education course and obtained their driver’s license, and were ready to showcase their knowledge of safe driving through a written test, their ability to maneuver through an obstacle course, and to what they learned into practice through a road test.
Today, there are many challenges facing teen drivers and adults. Cell phone use, text messaging, and the latest distraction — taking selfie photos while driving – were non-existent when Operation Driver Excellence started, but these present dangers for young drivers can lead to serious incidents, permanent disability or even death.
Text messaging, taking phone calls while driving, even when hands free, and scrolling through emails have become acceptable behaviors while driving in an ever-increasingly busy world. There are competing demands vying for our attention, and multi-tasking has become an accepted way of life. Unfortunately, when it comes to driving, it can result in serious incidents, permanent disability or even death.
To address the problem of distracted driving, the Hawaii State Department of Education, Hawaii Independent Energy (formerly Tesoro Hawaii) and DTRIC Insurance, have joined forces to address the issue. Participants in the challenge – students and their parents alike – will test their knowledge of road safety and see how well they respond to everyday distractions.
Operation Driver Excellence will feature a driving challenge and driving skills course. The driving skills course will include different stations for both students and parents to test their skills and gain pointers on parallel parking, perpendicular parking,
According to the 2012 Highway Safety Annual Report, there was a total of 20,905 citations for distracted driving issued statewide from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012. During the following year, from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013, the total number of citations declined slightly to 18,648 statewide.
“Despite many states having laws against distracted driving, the number of fatalities caused by distractions has not decreased,” said Jan Meeker, resource teacher for the Hawaii State Department of Education, who coordinates this annual event with a team of dedicated driver’s education instructors from across the state.
Prior to the law, Hawaii’s four counties enforced county ordinances that made it a violation to use a cell phone, MP3 player, gaming devices and other handheld electronic mobile devices while driving.
“Young drivers who are accustomed to multi-tasking are the most vulnerable,” said Eric Lee, general manager of HIE Retail, who oversees the network of Tesoro retail stations owned by Hawaii Independent Energy. “Many crashes involving handheld electronic mobile devices while driving are preventable. We’re doing our part to reinforce the importance of the law.”
Michele Saito, president of DTRIC Insurance Group, added: “DTRIC Insurance is hopeful that this experience will leave a positive, lasting impression on each of the students and their parents. As drivers of all ages face more and more everyday distractions, we believe that Operation Driving Excellence can serve as a reminder of the importance of driving carefully to prevent accidents and save lives.”