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Safety first

Frieda Hartung, a Butler High School senior, concentrates Thursday as she starts the driving segment of the safe driving competition at Butler County Community College.
Students navigate safe driving competition

BUTLER TWP — Two Butler County students took the top spots at a safe driving competition Thursday afternoon at Butler County Community College.

Yasmeen Manyisha, safety press officer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said the event fosters a better awareness of safe driving through practice.

“The students are going through a series of tests and obstacles,” Manyisha said. “(It's meant) to have the kids demonstrate their knowledge of safe driving.”

Students from 11 area high schools, including Butler, Karns City, Knoch, Mars, Moniteau, Seneca Valley, Slippery Rock, Union, Ellwood City, Laurel and New Castle competed for prizes.

Chelsey Dodds from Karns City won first place and received $1,000; Frieda Hartung from Butler High took second, winning $500; and in third was Sasha Armstrong from Union High School who won $250.

The winner of the team prize, Karns City High School, will receive a $500 donation.

As the first and second place winners, Dodds and Hartung will travel to the state competition May 7 in Camp Hill to compete for $10,000 in scholarships.

The students were graded on a written exam that tested knowledge, a perception test that tested reflexes and visual skills, and a driving course that tested the ability to operate a vehicle.

Manyisha said all the students received valuable experience to carry into their driving future.

“This is the best time to get to them because they're still forming and developing their habits,” she said.

In the obstacle course, students were walked around a car to test their knowledge of parts before driving through some pylons and tennis ball obstacles.

Dodds, a senior, said she had a mix of success on the exams.

“(The written exam) was kind of similar to a (driver's) permit test,” she said. “The picture one was tough.”Dodds said the tractor-trailer demonstration was also helpful. She said it gave her a better understanding of what truck drivers can see, and was surprised at how limited the field of view was.Nancy Hunter Mycka, vice president of the Board of Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, one of the event's sponsors, said the truck was well-received by the students.“They have a guy to talk you through (the truck) so you can see it for yourself,” Mycka said.Mycka said big trucks are good for the economy, but a cautious approach to passing trucks and awareness of their blind spots are pivotal to keeping the roads safe.“Anything you touch came from a truck,” she said. “Especially for juniors and seniors, it's a good exercise.”Butler County Sheriff Michael Slupe and Armstrong County Sheriff Bill Rupert both attended with officers to assist with the tests.Slupe said their presence is important to show young drivers that police aren't only around for enforcement duties but they also serve as a resource.“We feel it is very important for safety and education of young drivers to learn from experts in the driving industry, the law enforcement industry and all of the safety partners that participate in this program,” Slupe said.

Butler County Deputy Sheriff Nick Graham measures how close a high school driver gets to the line Thursday during a Safe Driving Competition at Butler County Community College.

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