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Timely lesson against distracted driving

Published 9:15pm Monday, November 12, 2012

Last week, Nansemond River High School students got a wakeup call on the dangers of texting while driving.

Tenth-graders were asked to drive golf carts in and out of a line of traffic cones while texting “Hello mom, I’m on the way home.” Many of those traffic cones were casualties of the experiment.

Distracted driving is not just a problem in Suffolk and Hampton Roads. I think we are all guilty of it to some extent. I have seen people just talking on their cellphones swerve out of their lane or cut people off in traffic.

Phones are not the only way to be distracted while driving. Talking to people in the car, turning your head to take care of something in the backseat or picking up a dropped lid to your coffee cup can distract drivers just enough to cause a major accident.

On a trip to the circus when I was a child, my father looked down to put the lid back on his soda bottle and rear-ended the car in front of him. It was a minor accident, but still one that could have been avoided. Car safety has come quite a long way since then, but so has even more distractions. Cellphones had yet to take over the world and there was no texting, apps or Facebook to distract drivers.

I admit myself that sometimes it is tempting when my phone buzzes to immediately check that text or email on my smartphone. But those can wait. There are very few things more important than your safety and the safety of the other drivers on the roadways.

Earlier in 2012, the first federal statistics on teen texting and driving revealed that about 58 percent of high school seniors had texted or emailed while driving in the previous month, so it is clear it has become a problem.

I think it is important for young drivers to get this message early on. They don’t remember a time when they were not electronically connected to the world at all times.

NRHS’ School Resource Officer Andre´ Weaver and a teacher devised the “Wait to Text” initiative last year, when the event was first held. More than 400 students were expected to take part in the program.

Hall Automotive runs an awareness campaign called “W82TXT,” and supplied NRHS students with thumb bands to help spread the text-free driving message.

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