Students at Science Hill High School heard some startling stories Thursday about teenagers killed or inflicted with lifetime injuries as a result of text messaging while driving, and most said afterward that no message is worth their life.
That’s exactly the message organizers for an anti-texting campaign — Don’t text and drive ... it can wait — want to send. And it’s apparently working, at least with some teenagers.
One group of seniors — Chloe Bales, Autumn Barnett, Esanse Gardner, Stephen Wang and Bobby Reynolds — was among the first to sign the pledge board after watching the video.
“I feel like as the issue gets more and more prominent I find myself holding myself more accountable for my own safety and the safety of the people I’m driving around,” said Reynolds. “I’m scared enough as it is with my siblings and my friends in the car.”
The teens also aren’t shy about asking their friends who are driving to stop texting while they’re in the car.
“Whenever I ride with other people I tell them to not text. If it’s one or two friends they’ll put it down and wait,” Wang said.
Barnett said until watching the video she hadn’t thought much about texting and driving, but it will now be on her mind.
“I feel like no conversation is going to be that important that you couldn’t wait until you get where you’re going. I didn’t really think it was an issue,” until seeing the video, she said.
The dangers of texting and driving had been on Bales’ mind, especially after her brother hit a light pole while checking a text when he was driving.
“It really scared me,” she said. “You shouldn’t worry about a text … it’s not that important.”
And for Gardner, who doesn’t drive much, she said the video shown Thursday will make her think twice about texting when she does get behind the wheel.
“It’s opened my eyes a lot … it really can wait. You ain’t gotta text just a smiley face. That’s unreasonable. That’s just too much,” Gardner said.
AT&T Regional Director Alan Hill said teenagers who text while driving is all too common and he’s glad to see the Science Hill students get on board with the no texting campaign. But the message isn’t just for teens, Hill said.
“For three years we’ve had this campaign about texting and driving to encourage the whole country to be safe driving by not texting,” he said.
But since Aug. 15, the company has made a bigger push with an accelerated campaign. Its highlight was Sept. 19, a national pledge day, but the campaign will continue to spread the message, he said.
“The campaign doesn’t stop. We (will) continue doing these outreach for high schools (and) communities,” so people understand the dangers of texting and driving, he said.
Even SHHS principal Melanie Riden-Bacon was affected by the video and took the pledge not to text and drive. She also wants to continue something she experienced last year for the first time in her 22 years in education.
“Last year I had my first experience of not losing a student,” who passed away for some reason. “I want to keep that going,” she said to students after the video ended.
Teens can also sign the pledge to not text and drive online at itcanwait.com, Hill said.