Students learn cars, texting don’t mix

Published 11:14 pm Thursday, November 8, 2012

Accompanied by basketball coach Ed Young, Nansemond River High School 10th-grader Damire Hopson learns about the dangers of texting while driving and of driving after consuming alcohol.

Traffic cones were the casualties during a driver education presentation at Nansemond River High School Thursday that highlighted the dangers of texting while driving.

Behind the wheel of golf carts, 10th-grade rising driver education students attempted to weave in and out of a line of traffic cones — many of which were squashed to the ground in the process — while texting “Hello mom, I’m on the way home.”

School Resource Officer Andre´ Weaver said he and a teacher devised the “Wait to Text” initiative last year, when it was first held.

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Over 400 students are expected to take part in the program, which continues today. The kids also attempted the obstacle course while wearing goggles that simulate what a drunk driver sees, as well as while texting and wearing the goggles at the same time.

“It’s very difficult,” said one student, Damire Hopson, who was being accompanied in the golf cart by basketball coach Ed Young. “It’s not two good combinations.”

Weaver explained, “We’re trying to expose them to the safety of driving without texting.

“I’d rather do it under a controlled environment than once they get their license and do it on the street.”

Weaver said the students enjoyed the exercise — what teenager wouldn’t jump at the chance of getting behind the wheel of a golf cart on the bus loop wearing a set of beer goggles?

“But the majority are saying they definitely won’t be texting while driving,” he said. “These golf carts go very slow; you can imagine trying to do it while driving a car, and they can see why you wouldn’t want to do that.”

A Hall Automotive representative was on hand for the presentation. The car dealership, which runs an awareness campaign called “W82TXT,” supplied students with thumb bands to help spread the text-free driving message.

Another business partner was Ricky’s Custom Carts, which supplied two of the three golf carts, with the third is owned by the school.

Weaver hopes that another aspect of the presentation will serve as a constant reminder to the students never to text behind the wheel or drive under the influence of alcohol.

They signed a pledge that they will never commits those wrongs. “This gives them a second thought in the back of their mind — ‘I have signed a pledge, I shouldn’t be doing this,’” Weaver said.

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.