Texting, driver campaign

AT&T and the Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths program teamed up as part of AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign to remind students that smartphone activity should wait until after driving.

During a program last week at John Marshall High School, dozens of students signed a pledge not to text and drive.

We hope they’ll keep to that pledge, to save their lives and the lives of others.

Driver distraction, which includes cellphone calls and texting, is responsible for nearly 60 percent of accidents involving teen drivers, according to the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety.

But teens aren’t alone in risky behaviors behind the wheel. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration estimates that 10 percent of all fatal crashes are due to distracted driving.

In southeastern Minnesota, we’ve seen all too often the results of these crashes. In the most recent case, a Dodge Center mother and her daughter were killed when their car was rear-ended by a driver who reportedly told police he was putting away his cellphone when the crash occurred.

And, of course, we’re all familiar with the heartbreaking story of Deej Logan, who was killed on the first day of her senior year at Byron High School four years ago when she drove into the rear of a school bus while texting behind the wheel.

Such examples should make all drivers of any age think twice about ever using a phone while driving. In fact, we feel these real stories are more compelling than state laws carrying relatively minor financial penalties.

That’s why, hopefully, programs like the “It Can Wait” presentation last week at John Marshall can have an impact. As part of the presentation, students watched a video in which victims of texting-and-driving crashes talked about the pain and suffering of losing a loved one or suffering permanent injury.

Several videos in the series are available on YouTube, and we found one in particular to be gut-wrenching: A mother, whose son was killed in a texting-while-driving crash, said kids are risking their lives to read “silly messages that don’t mean anything.” No text message is worth a life.

The same goes for messages read or sent by adults while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. We’ve all seen those drivers. At one time or another, many of us have been those drivers.

A University of Utah study found that drivers are as impaired when using a cellphone as they are when they drive intoxicated above the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.8 percent. Actually, we could go on and on citing study after study of the dangers and tragedies associated with distracted driving behaviors.

We’ll stop, though, with the simple lesson imparted to John Marshall students last week regarding a text message: It can wait.

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