ROSWELL, Ga. – More teenagers die from car accidents involving texting than they do from alcohol.
That was the sobering truth given to Roswell High School students Sept. 19 as part of the kickoff of AT&T’s “It can wait” anti-texting campaign.
“Three thousand teenagers die every year,” said Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa.
RHS Principal Jerome Huff said the dangers made for a sobering truth.
“Texting is part of being a teen,” Huff said, “but it must be safe – 100,000 crashes involving texting happen each year.”
Brian Ortiz, of AT&T, told a story. When his son got his first car, Ortiz made sure to install in it apps that send texts to his phone whenever his son was driving without a seat belt, speeding or driving outside a prescribed area. When his son began college, he was on his way home when he sent a text.
“I’m almost there,” Ortiz’s son wrote. That was the last message he sent. He strayed six inches across the median and ran head on into oncoming traffic. He lived nine days after the accident with severe brain damage.
“Within two to five seconds, you can lose your life,” Ortiz said. “You are someone’s son, daughter, niece, nephew or grandchild. You are important to many people.
“Cellphones are my business,” he said. “But technology comes with responsibility. It all comes down to you making a decision. It can all wait.”
The results of texting can be more than just a fender bender. Even if no one dies, the repercussions can be large.
“Reading and writing a text takes an average of five seconds,” said Roswell Police Officer Erin Johnson. “Driving at 55 mph, that is driving the length of a football field without paying attention.”
If a driver is found to be texting and driving when they cause an accident in which someone is killed, they can face homicide charges and spend years in prison.
“It’s absolutely not worth the risk,” she said.
She reminded the students that state law had made it illegal to text and drive, and for teens with a learner’s permit, it was illegal to talk on the phone or use one while driving.
The students of Roswell High were encouraged to sign a pledge not to text while driving, and encourage their friends to do the same.
“It’s sad to see people die for no reason,” said student Kyle Miller after he signed the pledge. His friend Jerrod Azzi agreed.
“I’m not going to text and drive. We’re going to save lives,” he said.
Students were able to take part in video game-like simulations that emulated the effects and dangers of texting while driving. The “player” takes the wheel and the program sends texts to their phone as they play. By answering the phone, the students can immediately see how poorly they respond and drive while distracted.
“I’m not a good driver as it is. But this is hard to text,” said CiGi Curry.
She said she was not going to text while driving.