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Sara M. Webster, criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in Bucks County with young people in motor vehicle and drug and alcohol cases, contributed to a panel discussion with other law enforcement professionals and educators from the community. The panel was part of a lecture and hands-on program on the real perils of inexperienced and distracted driving presented to a group of 21 teens from the Adolescent Initiative Program at Tabor Children’s Services in Doylestown.

Ms. Webster spoke of the practical legalities of traffic stops and the role a teen driver’s behavior plays in the response of a patrol officer.

“It is not illegal at present to talk on your cellphone while driving in Pennsylvania,” she pointed out. “However, if you are observed driving down the road with a cell phone in your hand, the officer has no way of knowing if you are speaking and listening or texting, which is illegal.”

“How you behave to the officer if you’re asked to stop may determine his choice of action, so being polite and showing respect as he does his job can make a difference in the outcome.”

Founded in 1907, Tabor Children’s Services is a private nonprofit child welfare agency that helps children and families in the Philadelphia region and in Bucks County. Comprehensive services include in-home support and protection, adoption and foster care, mental health services, parenting classes, and adolescent services that cover supervised independent living for older teens through their 21st birthday.

The teen driving program, Survive UR Drive, was developed in 2013 by Central Bucks Family YMCA and Fred Beans Automotive Group for area high schools and other groups.

Along with the panel discussion with experts and parents who have suffered losses because of distracted driving, the young people watched a PowerPoint review of driving rules and a graphic public service video on the dangers of texting while driving. The students also gained some “behind the wheel” experience driving a golf cart on a course set up at Tabor House for this event.

Participating in the panel and presentations with Ms. Webster were Officer Dave Carlen, Doylestown Borough Police; Robert Dorfman, an EMT and educator who has been responding at accident scenes for 27 years; Eric Ermigiotti, retired Central Bucks School District teacher whose son, a high school student, died in a distracted driving car crash; and Officer John Lehnen of Buckingham Township Police, whose son was seriously injured in a driving accident.

For more information on the Survive UR Drive teen driving program, contact Rachel Mauer, executive community director for the Y, at 215.348.8131 ext 1167 or RMauer@CBFYMCA.org