Keeping teens safe behind wheel

As an insurance agent for nearly 40 years, Dan McPherson of Wood County has seen the tragic consequences resulting from teenage drivers making poor decisions.

He has been at the scene of traffic accidents where teens have died or been seriously injured. For almost 20 years, McPherson has been working to make sure these tragedies do not occur.

On April 26, for the second time in six months, McPherson will be leading a teen safe-driving program in the Kmart parking lot at 1050 Division St. in Parkersburg.

Wearing Fatal Vision Goggles, teens from throughout the area can learn firsthand how impaired and bad driving practices can be deadly. The teens will drive golf carts along a course, trying to avoid cones while wearing the special goggles that simulate a drunken state.

The young drivers will try to navigate a course while texting and driving to demonstrate the hazards associated with this practice.

McPherson and public safety officials working on the local safe-driving program note that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States.

McPherson has contacted high schools in the region to let students know about this month’s program, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

He is inviting parents, grandparents and guardians of local teens to also take the driving tests.

McPherson believes April is a good time to drive home the importance of safe driving because of the proms and graduation parties occurring during the spring.

Chief Deputy Shawn Graham of the Wood County Sheriff’s Office believes in the importance of the safe-driving program. Teens who drove on the safe-driving, texting and driving course found the experience to be eye-opening, he said.

The dangers of drinking and driving and distracted driving need to be stressed, Graham said.

“Education starts at home but this helps,” Graham said.

Deputies will be joined at the event by the Parkersburg police and fire departments, West Virginia State Police, DuPont with its Seat Belt Convincer and other businesses bringing safe-driving displays. The sheriff’s office will have its Kid Print ID and car seat programs at the Kmart lot.

“My goal is to prevent a child from getting killed or maimed,” McPherson said.

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Wood County natives Ken and Betsy Nowell, who live in Vero Beach, Fla., have written a travel guide titled “Rome and the Vatican – Guild 4 Pilgrims.” The book contains 800 photographs detailing 100 Christian pilgrim sites, maps, 12 walking tours and tips for traveling through Rome. Ken, a 1974 graduate of Parkersburg Catholic High School, told me this is a perfect time to release the travel guide because of the large crowds expected in Rome for the canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on April 27 and the worldwide popularity of Pope Francis. The Nowells, who describe themselves as devout Catholics, have visited the Vatican six times in the past eight years. Their book provides a Christian history of Rome, Ken said. Betsy (Hale) Nowell is a 1974 graduate of Parkersburg High School and Ken and Betsy, who were high school sweethearts, both graduated from West Virginia University. Ken has a Master of Business Administration and law degree from the University of South Carolina, served in the West Virginia Legislature from Wood and Wirt counties in the 1980s and formerly owned Alco Fence Co. here. For more information on the travel guide and Ken’s trilogy of Christian thriller books, go to kennethenowell.com.

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Parkersburg native Jody Carmichael’s Hot Pink Cake Stand has hit a sweet tooth in Wilmington, N.C. Carmichael, a 1994 graduate of Parkersburg South High School, opened the cake and cupcake bakery at 114 N. Front St. in downtown Wilmington in January 2010. She followed this by opening a second Hot Pink Cake Stand last year at Monkey Junction, 5543 Carolina Beach Road, Suite 140 in Wilmington. Carmichael said her wedding cake business is booming on the weekends and she is pleased by the reception at her “stands.” The newest location has a food menu for lunch and dinner, and Carmichael will pair a wine with dessert at both locations.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com