The new year is proving to be an exciting time for Lakeway resident Holly Noak’s 15-year-old daughter. When the Lake Travis High School student received her Texas driving learner’s permit last month, Noak sought ways of making the child’s transition to an independent driver safer.
“My new driver was driving the other day, and she reached down to adjust the seat, just the tiniest bit. And in that moment, she started to drift just a little,” Noak said. “We talked about how the tiniest distraction can cause huge consequences at high speeds, even at 30 miles an hour.”
Married to a 20-year rescue paramedic with the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service who now works in its public information office, Noak has firsthand knowledge of the dangers of teen driving.
Citing a national safety program, she said statistics show that if a new driver makes it to age 25, he or she will have a greater likelihood of not being killed in a vehicular accident.
So when Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Lakeway announced a new program aimed at teen driving safety, Noak knew immediately her daughter should take the course.
The free one-day program—Reality Education for Drivers— is designed to help teens and young adults, ages 14 to 25, become safer drivers. With sites in other Texas cities, the program is the first RED course offered in the Lake Travis area.
Taught by specially trained staff, the four-hour program focuses on the dangers of texting and driving; drinking and driving; and the importance of always buckling up. Participants who are under 18 must bring their parents with them. A tour of the hospital’s trauma center is included.
Lakeway Municipal Court Judge Kevin Madison brought the program to Lakeway after eyeing the course in Waco and Temple, communities near Bruceville-Eddy where he also sits on the bench. The course is already taught in 14 Baylor Scott & White hospitals throughout Texas, he said.
Following a classroom session, students tour the hospital and then the morgue, the portion of the tour that Madison said quiets down laughing teens and young adults.
“It’s not a scared straight, but it shows the kids the trauma center, the E.R. (and) what’s going to happen if you are in a bad car crash,” he said. “Your parents are going to have to see you on this gurney right here in this emergency room.”
Madison was sending teens from his Bruceville-Eddy courtroom to the Waco and Temple courses, hoping the program would become available in Lakeway. He said he reached out to Philippe Bochaton, president of Baylor Scott & White-Lakeway, who agreed to create a local course.
“Bringing the RED Program to our community can go a long way to reminding our youth the importance of practicing safe driving habits because, at the end of the day, it’s their lives as well as other drivers on the road that are at stake,” Bochaton said.
For the program’s inaugural session Sunday, Madison said he signed up 15 juvenile defendants from Lakeway Municipal Court. The class sold out about a week before the event, and two additional local sessions will be offered June 15 and Aug. 22.
For Noak, the course is a “must” for teens taking to Lake Travis roadways.
“My husband’s perspective, as a professional in the field, is that every teen driver should be required to ride out in an ambulance,” Noak said. “Having the opportunity to be exposed to the consequences of our choices, the good and the bad, it’s just an effective tool that we can use when training our kids.”