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Texting While Driving? Not These Eagan High School Students

A student group at the high school staged a campaign against texting while driving last week, collecting pledges from—and raising awareness—among their peers.

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Like most teenagars, Eagan High School students Kelsey Doucette and Jessica Haughton love to exchange rapid-fire text messages with their friends.

Unlike many of their peers, however, Doucette and Haughton draw a line when it comes to texting and driving.

"Everyone knows it's illegal, because it's the equivalent of closing your eyes and driving on the road," Doucette said. "Teenagers just think, 'No, [a car accident] isn't going to happen to me.' But it's like, 'No, you don't understand.'"

Doucette, a senior, and Haughton, a sophomore, are both members of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). The group includes nearly a dozen members at Eagan High School and has in the past targeted issues like underage drinking and seatbelt use.

But this fall, group members took aim at an even more prevalent problem: texting while driving.

Last week, SADD members collected signatures from hundreds of their peers on a banner they promoted during the school's lunch hour. To sign the banner, each signee had to pledge that they wouldn't text and drive.

SADD's efforts came on the heels of an awareness video shown to all students at the high school earlier in the week. The dramatic video, created by AT&T and shown in snippets during the 2012 Olympics, illustrates the dangers of texting while driving with testimonials from those injured or otherwise affected by the behavior.

"Making them aware of how quickly things can go from good to bad, that's what the video emphasizes," said Eagan High School Principal Dr. Polly Reikowski. "For me, it's absolutely essential that the kids understand that they have to put away the electronics."

One in three high school students admitted that they had texted or emailed while driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Youth Risk Behavior Study, which was released earlier this year.

"It is unbelievably, extremely evident," said Doucette, who sees that behaviour happen on a "constant" basis.

Haughton and Eagan High School social studies teacher and SADD coordinator Sigrid Iverson agree.

"I would say it's pretty darn prevalent, because I think this generation is so used to having phones and texting," Iverson said.

The banner carrying hundreds of signatures from students will remain up in the high school cafeteria for the rest of the year as a constant reminder of the dangers of texting and driving, Iverson said.

While Iverson, Haughton and Doucette hope the banner and awareness video will encourage students to think twice about their behavior, all three believe more will be needed to make any behavioral change stick.

"I think some will take it seriously, but there are also some out there that don’t really care," said Haughton.

"I think that, for high school students, a lot of what you do is plant those little seeds," Iverson said. "When you start ot plant those basic fundamental practices, you have a better chance of seeing some results.

"The reality is that texting is not going away," Iverson added. "It’s time to figure out how we can get students to buy into the idea of doing it safely."

Erik Wood October 12, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I think this effort will help these young drivers (and hopefully the adults as well) get the message. It has to start with the end user, the driver...deciding not to partake in distracted driving and this will help drive that message home. I also decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool for teens and their parents called OTTER that is a simple, GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws. Erik Wood, owner OTTER app do one thing well... be great.

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