JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn — Almost a year into the "Hands Free Tennessee Law", a Jefferson County High School student is warning about the dangers of distracted driving through a video she produced for her senior project.
Frankie Estepp, the senior who created the video, in collaboration with Jefferson County officials and first responders, wants to discourage people of all ages from texting and driving.
The 5-minute video follows a group of teenagers who are getting ready for a dance. On the way there, everyone, including the driver, is distracted by a phone. Eventually, the group is involved in a crash.
Firefighters show up and show how they would have to use the jaws of life to cut open the car and rescue the teens. Unfortunately, not everyone makes it out alive.
"It's one of those things that could be completely preventable if we just allowed it to be," Estepp said. "If we just put the phones away."
She produced this video as her senior capstone project to shed light on the "Hands Free Tennessee Law" and to get ahead of the curve.
She wanted to target the teenagers who are just starting to drive, to engrain the idea in their heads.
"If you just start teaching about distracted driving before students are actually on the road then it just sets them up for a future of knowing, 'I can't be on my phone while driving,'" Estepp explained.
In 2019, there were over 23,700 crashes involving a distracted driver in Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, that's nearly five times the national average.
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"I would really like to see those numbers drop to zero at some point," Estepp begged. "Distracted driving is completely preventable."
Estepp hopes her project can help with that drop. She didn't shy away from using more graphic and realistic images in the video. She said it's important for people to see.
"It was just needed in the video to really to get a response from people, to potentially keep drivers focused on the road," Estepp explained.
The video was supposed to be shown to the student body before prom last week, but with schools closed due to coronavirus, that didn't happen.
"I really wanted to just not let the project die," Estepp admitted. "Because it could really, really impact people and prevent more accidents on the road."
By sharing the message online, Estepp hopes people will realize the consequences of driving distracted.
"It can all just be taken away by the push of a button," Estepp urged.
Estepp said Tennessee's Fourth District Representative John Holsclaw, Jr. was a cheerleader for her project because he played an integral role in getting "Hands Free Tennessee" passed into law.
Estepp said she couldn't have gotten the project done without help from her friends, family, teachers and the support from Jefferson County officials.
After graduating from JCHS, Estepp will start her college journey as a political science major at the University of Oklahoma.
If you would like to reach out to Estepp about the video, you can contact her through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.