Texting while driving target of Schalmont program
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Those four text messages, each typed or read by teenage drivers, caused lives to be altered or ended.
The tragic stories, which vividly illustrate the dangers of texting and driving, were told in the documentary “The Last Text,” shown to about 250 Schalmont High School juniors and seniors Wednesday, as part of AT&T’s anti-texting-while-driving program, “It Can Wait.”
The auditorium was hushed as the students heard stories about two teenage girls who crashed their vehicles and died while texting, and the testimony of a boy who glanced down to text and hit a cyclist, fatally injuring him.
The 10-minute film also included the tale of a young man who received debilitating injuries when the car he was a passenger in hit a tree because the driver’s attention was directed at his cellphone.
A recent survey commissioned by AT&T as part of the “It Can Wait” campaign found that while 97 percent of teens know texting while driving is dangerous, 43 percent of them admit to sending a text while driving, and 75 percent say the practice is common among their friends.
The survey found that teenagers feel pressure to quickly respond to text messages, and that adults set a poor example by texting while driving.
Rich Kranick, Schalmont’s school resource officer, said the Rotterdam Police Department is starting to see accidents related to texting.
“I think we’re going to see more, unless something happens, like programs like this,” he said, noting that Wednesday was the kick-off date for a local and state law enforcement effort to crack down on texting while driving.
Kranick, a police officer for over 30 years, told the students that on many occasions he has had to call parents to tell them their child had been involved in a serious auto accident. The majority of those crashes were caused by driver inattention, he noted.
“Don’t ever give me an opportunity to have to call your parents about you being in an accident, especially for texting. It’s a terrible job and it makes me really sad to have to do that,” he told the young crowd.
High school senior Joe Neri, who attended the assembly, said he never texts while driving.
“I can barely text and walk, so I don’t see the point in risking it while driving,” he said.
Joe Caldara, president of Schalmont’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club, also denied ever texting while driving.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” he said. “If I’m driving with someone, they can text for me, or it can wait. It’s not that important. I don’t want to see anybody get hurt. ... No one should be getting hurt over a text message.”
The holidays, when kids are off from school and may be behind the wheel more than usual, are an ideal time to reinforce the message that texting and driving do not mix, said Jackie Gordon, assistant principal at Schalmont High School.