SC Department of Public Safety holds outreach event for Darlington students with NASCAR driver, Ross Chastain | SCDPS Skip to main content
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SC Department of Public Safety holds outreach event for Darlington students with NASCAR driver, Ross Chastain

Fri, 05/10/2024

DARLINGTON, S.C. – While NASCAR racing at Darlington Raceway is known for its blazing speeds and split-second decisions, driving on South Carolina roads requires drastically different behaviors to ensure that everyone gets to where they are going safely.

Today, Darlington County Institute of Technology (DCIT) students learned firsthand the dangers of unsafe driving behaviors from the SC Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), and they did so in the company of one of the best NASCAR drivers in the world – Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain.

Just hours before Chastain hits the track for the Buckle Up South Carolina 200 NASCAR CRAFSTMAN Truck Series Race, where SCDPS is the entitlement sponsor and Chastain is driving the sponsored Buckle Up South Carolina vehicle, he spent Friday morning with hundreds of DCIT students alongside SC Highway Patrol troopers, State Transport Police officers, and other SCDPS staff. The joint public outreach event’s goal was educating some of Darlington’s youngest drivers on the importance of developing safe driving habits like wearing seatbelts, putting the phone away while driving, and staying sober.

“I love events where I can connect with these young drivers and help them understand that one bad decision can completely alter their life,” Chastain said. “If only one of these kids heads home today and they make the right decision to buckle up, slow down, or put their phone on do not disturb when they’re driving, then I consider today’s event a success.”   

In addition to talking about making good decisions behind the wheel, Chastain signed autographs and answered questions from students and staff about two miles away from The Track Too Tough To Tame.

State Transport Police officers constructed a go-kart track at DCIT and allowed students to drive the Drive 2 Zero cart, a specialized vehicle that has variable response steering which simulates what driving is like when impaired or distracted. As they navigated the track, students learned the grave dangers of texting or drinking while driving, especially around commercial motor vehicles.

SC Highway Patrol troopers spent time interacting with the DCIT students through games of cornhole and discussions on alcohol impairment. The students attempted to land a cornhole bag on the board while wearing Fatal Vision alcohol goggles, which simulate an impaired state, allowing them to experience just how much alcohol affects spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination.

“These programs were designed to give these students a unique opportunity to experience the simulation of driving impaired in a safe, controlled environment,” said SCDPS Director, Robert G. Woods, IV. “Our goal is for them to walk away from today with a completely new understanding of how dangerous driving really is. These lessons are invaluable, and we want them to know that their lives matter and we care about their safety.”

With Chastain’s farming and auto racing background, the event provided an excellent opportunity for students at DCIT to expand their learning from the classrooms and shops of the Career and Technology Center, which serves some 800 students from across Darlington County with real-world, project-based learning and experience. DCIT prepares the students of Darlington County to enter the workforce in various industries immediately upon high school graduation.

“I would like to thank SCDPS for allowing our students to participate in this great event and, of course, we want to thank Ross Chastain and his team for spending time with our faculty, staff, and students today,” said Robbie Smith, director of DCIT. “We appreciate this opportunity for our students to be involved in today’s activities, which delivered an important message to our students about safety behind the wheel. We also appreciate the partnership between DCIT, Darlington Raceway, and NASCAR as we introduce students to career pathways in Automotive Technology, Automotive Collision, Business, Marketing, Engineering, and many others that are related to the motorsports world.”

For more images from today’s event, please visit this photo album:

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety includes the Highway Patrol, State Transport Police, Bureau of Protective Services, Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame. Our mission is to ensure public safety by protecting and serving the people of South Carolina and its visitors.