Sarah Edwards was reading a text message when her car crossed the centerline of a two-lane road and ran into the rear wheels of a loaded logging truck. She died instantly. Angelina Bandino was walking along a road when an 18-year-old driver struck and killed her because he was typing a text message. Caleb Sorohan was texting a friend as his car veered into the opposite lane and hit a truck head-on.
Four of the Minnesota State Officers traveled to our nation’s capitol for a “teens against distracted driving” youth summit called NOYS (National Organization for Youth Safety.) At this 3 day retreat we experienced a car simulator, listened to wonderful panelist speakers, and came together with other student teams and peer mentors (which included Kaylen Larson, our national president,) to find innovative ways to raise awareness of the “X the Text” campaign.
Most teenagers think they’re pretty good at texting while driving because some don’t even need to look at the keys while they type, but what about reading the responding text message from your friend? If dared to do so by a friend, would you drive down the highway with your eyes closed for a few seconds? Typing or receiving a text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds, and that’s all it takes. To demonstrate this, NOYS participants got to experience the dangers of this in a car simulator. You wear goggles with a screen on them that shows a road that you must drive on. You must also text a message to someone on your phone while staying in your lane, without going off the road, running red lights, hitting a pedestrian, etc. I was asked by the computer to drive into a gas station while I text. I made it to the gas station, but went off the roads several times. It is very realistic to a texting while driving scenario.
Panelist speakers came from all over the United States to share with us statistics, such as, texting while driving impairs your driving ability more than driving while intoxicated. A person driving drunk is still trying to focus on the road whereas if you are texting, you aren’t looking at all. We heard about new laws and/or campaigns to end texting and driving or knew ideas to raise awareness from our speakers, but most importantly, we heard the personal stories from some of them. Wil Craige’s story was featured in “The Last Text” YouTube video. He was declared dead on the scene three times, but pulled through and spoke at the summit. He has come a long way since his accident, and he is one of the sweetest guys anyone could ever meet. He went through tons of physical therapy, and grieved the loss of his friend who had been driving that night, as well as the loss of his ability to have a job, play a sport, or basically, do things on his own. He tells his story to help end car accidents where texting is involved.
During our time at the summit, the four Minnesota officers created a plan to raise awareness in our state. We hope everyone will get involved and be as excited about this campaign as we are. Coming up in November, we will have a patrol officer speak at the “Minnesota Day” during cluster. In March, those attending Legislative Shadow Day will be apart in helping raise awareness at the state capitol. We would like chapters to use their imaginations in February during FCCLA week and do something at your school to help spread the “X the Text” campaign. Everyone should also be looking forward to State Conference where there will be a whole day’s worth of workshops on distracted driving because ALL texting and driving car accidents are preventable.