Calgary Grade 3 class catches 460 distracted drivers in the act

TJ Lorenson enlisted his classmates at Langevin School to keep an eye out for every instance of distracted driving they see in their day-to-day lives, record the data, and bring it to school.

Police say grassroots project a 'great way' for kids to educate adults, particularly their parents

TJ Lorenson shows off police data on distracted driving that he and his dad, Dean Lorenson, obtained through a freedom of information request. TJ and his classmates have been doing their own observations of distracted driving and comparing their results to the police numbers. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

How often do students in a typical Grade 3 class witness distracted driving in a given month?

The answer is 460.

We know that thanks to eight-year-old TJ Lorenson, who enlisted his classmates at Langevin School to keep an eye out for every instance of distracted driving they see in their day-to-day lives, record the data, and bring it to school.

Together, they added up all those instances and came up with their roughly month-long tally, as part of an ongoing class project that caught the attention of police — in a good way.

"It's really awesome when somebody like TJ gets involved in educating kids on safety, and distracted driving is a pretty big issue right now in the city," said Const. Steve Ross with the Calgary Police Service's Community Youth Section, who recently met with TJ to go over the class data.

Const. Steve Ross with the Community Youth Section said kids were a big help decades ago in getting their parents to observe seatbelt laws, and he thinks efforts like TJ's can help do the same today for distracted-driving laws. (CBC)

They also compared it to actual police data that TJ and his father, Dean Lorenson, obtained through a freedom of information request, which shows a steadily increasing frequency of tickets for distracted driving since the law took effect in 2011.

In that first year, police handed out an average of 346 tickets per month to Calgary drivers. The number grew each and every year since, reaching a monthly average of 713 tickets in 2015.

"The police do a much better jobs than kids," TJ admitted of his classmates' effort to catch distracted drivers in the act.

Driver education — particularly parents

Aside from pure data gathering, Ross sees another advantage to TJ's class project.

Not surprisingly, many of the distracted drivers the students catch are their own parents — and the kids are sure to let their folks know that their behind-the-wheel cellphone use is going in the class registry.

"I think it is a great way for kids to help educate their parents," Ross said.

"When you hear something through a child, it's always a reminder that there is a reason for the rules."

TJ and his dad, Dean Lorenson, speak with Const. Steve Ross about the class project on distracted driving. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Dean ​said encouraging his son to enlist his class as unofficial traffic enforcers hasn't made him universally beloved, however.

"​I'm probably not the most popular parent in that class," he said. "But I'm fine with that."

Overall, TJ said he was surprised by the numbers his classmates came back with.

"It's not good that their parents are distracted driving so much," he said.

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