MANATEE -- Six thousand deaths a year.
That is the number of young people killed in substance abuse-related traffic accidents, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
That's why MADD is teaming up with the Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition, Florida Highway Patrol, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, East Manatee Fire and Rescue and other local sponsors to bring the Speak-Up Against Impaired Driving event to Manatee County.
Speak Up is set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Ranch Lake Plaza, 8712 State Road 70 E., and is open to drivers of all ages.
Maj. Connie Shingledecker, a 35-year sheriff's department veteran and investigative services bureau executive, is scheduled as a guest speaker for Saturday's event. Her focus will be on educating parents on the abuse of prescription drugs by youth, an issue she sees often in local
"I think it's something parents really need to be concerned about. The ease of access children have to prescription drugs is a real problem." Shingledecker said. "We want to make sure parents are communicating well and are staying involved with their children's activities."
That drug and alcohol abuse is not a minor problem is the message MADD hopes to get across at "Speak Up," which is scheduled to include a mock car crash and an emergency response scenario, as well as other events for attendees and a chance to win a ride in the Goodyear blimp. One of these events, the Safe Teen Driver "DUI driving challenge," allows participants to drive golf carts through an obstacle laden track, once with their usual coordination and reflexes, and a second time with intoxication-simulating goggles for comparison.
Vehicle rollover simulations, rock-wall climbing, monster truck displays, and taekwondo demonstrations will also be going on at various times throughout the day.
These activities will be free to the public, as will the food and drinks provided throughout the day. Festivities last until the afternoon, and then the "power of the parents" assembly will take place. This presentation will include a workshop for parents, aimed at helping them talk with their children about drunken, drugged and distracted driving, as well as guest speakers from the Manatee County Sheriffs Office and Florida Highway Patrol.
Sharon Hall, a program specialist with MADD, will speak with teens and parents alike. She says that one out of five teens participates in binge drinking, but only one in 100 parents believe their teen is binge drinking.
"We have plenty of information to share, flyers and brochures families can take home, but sometimes a personal conversation can reach a teen better than statistics," Hall said.
Hall says she looks forward to having the opportunity to educate teens and parents alike, and hopes to share this life-saving workshop with a large turnout.
For more information, contact Todd Ice at 863-589-2253.