Not a good idea, students say
By B.C. Manion
Sixteen-year-old Wes Schweiger found out how hard it would be to text while driving during a recent simulated exercise at Carrollwood Day School (CDS).
“You cannot be looking at the road while you’re texting,” said Schweiger, noting that he crashed twice during his brief time behind the wheel of AWARE-TXT Simulator.
Matthew Punzone, who also took a turn in the simulator, said he’s pretty sure he was speeding. The 16-year-old said he wouldn’t text and drive in real life.
“I would be too scared, honestly,” Punzone said, adding that he knows someone who died as a result of an accident that involved texting while driving.
CDS’ entire high school student body had a chance to find out how difficult it is to concentrate on the road while texting.
A team from PEER Awareness, a health and wellness company based in Grand Rapids, Mich., was at the school Sept. 28 to conduct the exercise at the school, 1515 W. Bearss Ave.
Students drove in a real car that was suspended and monitored with sensors to simulate actual driving. The software renders a virtual field of vision, visible on a heads-up display worn by the driver. The software also simulates various road conditions, such as rain and snow.
Catania & Catania Attorneys at Law sponsored the event.
The dangers of texting while driving are gaining greater attention as public service announcements (PSA) put those hazards in human terms.
In one PSA, a young woman talks about the last text she sent her sister before the young woman died in a crash. In another, a young man with brain damage talks about the challenges that await him because he was texting while driving.
The issue is so serious that lawmakers in many states have banned texting while driving.
Krista Diamond, high school counselor and advisory program coordinator at CDS, said concerns expressed by students prompted the event.
Diamond said several students expressed concerns about it while talking to a coach, who brought the issue to her.
“Our students do know people who have been in accidents related to texting and driving,” Diamond said. “They see it as an increasing problem. … Our hope was that we can dispel some of the myths. A lot of people seem to think that ‘I can do it.’”
They somehow think that they’re immune to the potential dangers, Diamond explained. She said she knows about the dangers because she was involved in an accident involving a driver who was texting. They were lucky, she said. No one was seriously hurt.
For more information on PEER Awareness and their AWARE-TXT Simulator, as well as other programs, visit www.peerawareness.com.
—Follow B.C. Manion on Twitter: @BCManionLaker
Texting while driving facts*
—At least 23 percent of auto collisions involved cellphones in 2011.
—The minimal amount of time your attention is taken away from the road when you’re texting is 5 seconds. If you’re driving 55 mph, the traveling distance with your eyes off the road is equivalent to the length of a football field.
—Texting while driving makes a crash 23 times more likely.
—Approximately 82 percent of all 16- and 17-year-olds have a cellphone; 34 percent acknowledge that they’ve texted while driving.
—Roughly 77 percent of teens surveyed are confident or very confident that they can safely drive, while texting.
Texting while driving causes:
—1.6 million accidents per year, according to the National Safety Council
—230,000 injuries per year, according to a Harvard Center For Risk Analysis study
—11 teen deaths every day, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts