April 03, 2013 - More than 200 Oxford High School students recently signed a pledge poster promising they won't send or read text messages while driving.
Among those OHS students who signed the pledge not to text and drive were (standing, from left) Mackenzie Crosson, Megan Carson, Hannah Ex, Zack Woloszyk, Ashley Murdock and (kneeling, from left) Molly Marks and Hope McColl. With them is Greg Clay, co-owner of the Curtis Insurance Agency in downtown Oxford. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
The pledge is part of W82TXT (Wait to Text), a community awareness campaign to encourage drivers not to text when they're behind the wheel.
"When you drive down the road, you can't believe how many (motorists) are texting – and it's not just kids," said Greg Clay, co-owner of the Oxford-based Curtis Insurance Agency, which partnered with the OHS chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to launch the campaign.
"We just wanted to reinforce the message of driving safely."
Clay noted how a motorist traveling at 55 miles per hour who takes their eyes off the road for just 5 seconds is basically driving the length of a football field without looking.
"We're just trying to encourage everybody to not do it," he said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers who text are six times more likely to cause an accident than drivers who are intoxicated.
The NHTSA reports that while texting, a driver's steering capability goes down by 91 percent and the risk of having an accident increases by nearly 25 percent.
The NHTSA estimated that of all drivers under age 20 who were involved in fatal crashes, 16 percent were distracted. More than 5,000 people die annually as a result of being distracted while driving.
"The ones who are most likely to do it seem to be our age groups at the high school," said OHS teacher Dave Carson, who serves as adviser to SADD. "It's a big enough and dangerous enough problem that we thought we should definitely do something about it – at least keep the kids informed."
Clay noted there was a wrecked vehicle, provided by Buckhorn Towing in Lake Orion, on display at OHS to show students the potential consequences of distracted driving.
"It was pretty ugly," he said.
To help raise awareness about the dangers of texting and driving, Curtis Insurance and SADD showed students a video during their lunch hour and invited them to sign the W82TXT pledge.
SADD also handed out red thumb bands bearing the W82TXT message, provided by Curtis Insurance, which is located at 25 N. Washington St. These bands serve as a visual reminder to not text while driving.
Carson hopes that signing the pledge and wearing the thumb band will deter students from texting and driving because "nobody wants to be a hypocrite" and "look bad" to others.
"I know I can't do it now," he said. "If was in a texting-and-driving accident, I'd feel so stupid about it."
Texting and driving has been illegal in Michigan since July 2010. It's a violation of state law to read, type or send a text message or e-mail via any wireless communication device while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Those who break this law are subject to a $100 fine for a first offense and a $200 fine for each subsequent violation.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.