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Area Students, Schools Are Taking a Stand Against Texting and Driving

High school students are learning that when they are driving, texting can be just as dangerous as drinking.

Does your teen text and drive? Do his or her friends?

According to a survey from AT&T:

  • 75 percent of teens surveyed say that texting while driving is "common" among their friends;
  • Almost all teens (89 percent) expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less;
  • And 77 percent of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.

Educators are starting to target distracted driving—including texting and driving—just like drinking and driving in their safety messages to local students.

The problem, they say, is that many students don't connect texting and driving as a dangerous combination.

“They think it’s so innocent, they don’t see it as they’re making a destructive decision,” said Nicole Schingeck, a counselor at Hartland High School. “They don’t understand the consequences, they don’t see the connection there yet. 

It Can Wait

A new campaign from AT&T is hoping to change that mentality and highlight the dangers of texting and driving. The It Can Wait program, which launched in September, encourages drivers to take the pledge, promising to not text and drive.

Many schools in the area are teaming up with AT&T, including Hartland and the school’s SADD group, and promoting the campaign to students and their parents.

Schingeck is also the adviser for Hartland SADD group, formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving but now called Students Against Destructive Decisions. She says some students were surprised that texting was going to be a focus for the group that historically deals with alcohol and drugs. 

“I really don’t think the kids see (texting and driving) as having much of an impact" before they learn the facts, she said.

According to Hartland junior Ryan Clogg, even though 80 percent of his peers know that texting and driving is wrong, many still do it.

“It’s not that their carrying on a full conversation, but they will send out short answers while their driving,” he said. “It’s the little ones that are the problem.”

But it’s also not just friends who text and expect an answer. Clogg says he also feels pressure to respond to the texts he receives from his mother while driving.

Schingek says that these types of situations could be avoided with more communication at home.

“We have to make sure, as parents, that when our kids are out of the house we know when to text or when to call,” Schigeck said. “So it’s really about setting up a plan of action before they leave the house.” 

AT&T is also now offering a Drive-mode app which sends an automatic “I’m in the car driving” message to a user's top five contacts.

For 16-year-old Ryan, however, the automated simple message may not be enough to satisfy his peers and may only provoke a phone call or more texts. Having a more controlled app on the phone may be part of solution, according to Ryan. He said thought that AT&T's TV commercial messages are having some effect, as well.

“Those commercials they have are rough,” Ryan said. “All over Twitter, the texting and driving commercials, people are always talking about how horrible they are, how sad they are, cause they are. Those connect.”

Using such a reality-based approach and sending those “powerful” messages is how driving instructor Joe Burch from the Focus Driving Academy says he also tried to relay the dangers of texting and driving.

“To get teenagers to stop, it has to be more than just don’t do it,” Burch said. “It has to be don’t do it because you don’t realize how many people you’re going to hurt. 

A former mortician, Burch says he begs and pleads with the young drivers, telling stories of parents who have lost their children.

“I try to take the approach when your texting, it’s not so much I could get in an accident, but if something happened to me, it would really destroy my family,” he said.

Resources for parents, schools and teens

Have you taken the pledge to stop texting and driving? Enter our Patch.com/AT&T contest and tell us why.

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