Local student honored by Disney for innovative teen driver safety initiative
By Allison Jarrell
When it came time to choose his Eagle Scout project, Dalton Bourne knew he wanted to do something different—something that would stand out and make a difference in the community.
Bourne, a 16-year-old junior at San Juan Hills High School, was a sophomore at the time and while thinking of ideas, he recalled a fatal car crash involving young drivers that had happened the year before. Bourne said he’s not sure what caused that crash, but he came up with an idea to help prevent future accidents from happening due to distracted driving.
Distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives in 2015 and left 391,000 people injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA estimates that 660,000 drivers use electronic devices while driving during the day.
Bourne’s teen driver safety initiative called, “On the Road, Off the Phone,” began with having his friend’s dad help him design a phone pouch that students can put their mobile device into while driving. The goal, Bourne said, is to keep them from texting while driving.
Bourne raised $900 from local companies Reata Glen and Rancho Mission Viejo to have 600 microfiber pouches produced. Each pouch features Stanley the Stallion on one side, and the words “On the Road, Off the Phone” on the other.
This year, when San Juan Hills students went to sign up for a parking pass, they had the option to sign a pledge not to text and drive and receive a free pouch. About 400 pouches were given to students, and Bourne said he’s received a lot of positive feedback from faculty and his peers.
“The coolest thing is when I’m in the car with one of my friends and I see them use it,” Bourne said with a smile. “A lot of them don’t even know it’s mine.”
Bourne said it was his mother who encouraged him to apply for the Disneyland Resort Dreamers & Doers program, which recognizes high school students in Orange County who take action to improve their homes, schools and communities. Naturally, he wrote his essay about his teen driver safety initiative.
“I love this project. I think it’s awesome,” Bourne said. “But I didn’t expect Disney to love it as much.”
Not only was Bourne chosen as one of 33 youth to be recognized at the resort’s celebration on Feb. 25, but he was honored with a “luminary” award, reserved for the top five students. As part of that award, Bourne was given $3,000 to donate to an Orange County charity of his choice.
Bourne chose Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, a nonprofit that aims to increase academic opportunities for highly motivated and underserved students. He said his family has supported Breakthrough for a long time, and he has good friends who are in the program.
“I want to help them keep doing what they’re doing, because I think it’s a great program,” Bourne said.
On April 4, the San Juan Capistrano City Council honored Bourne for his efforts to better his community and encourage safer driving habits.
“Your astounding achievements and your desire to serve your community speaks loud of your aptitude, character and kindness,” Mayor Kerry Ferguson said.
And as if receiving a luminary award wasn’t enough for his junior year of high school, Bourne was also honored by the Council for earning a perfect score of 36 on his ACT—something less than one tenth of 1 percent of students nationwide achieve.
It seems that Bourne plans to keep aiming high. He hopes to attend Brigham Young University after he graduates, go on a mission for his church and eventually write a book—actually a whole series of books, which he already has planned out.
Bourne said he loves biology and helping people, so his dream is to become a doctor, perhaps a pediatrician. To accomplish that dream, he hopes to attend Harvard Medical School, following in the footsteps of his father, who attended Harvard Business School.