Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

February 12, 2013

Students speak out about texting, driving

A project to raise student awareness regarding the dangers of texting while driving has become a mission for Cleburne High School juniors Brandy Villasana, Carmen Lopez and Elijah Upchurch.

The Family, Career and Community Leaders of America members conducted surveys, involved classmates in discussions and demonstrations and papered the hallways with slogans to reinforce their message: A text is not worth a life.

“We don’t want anyone to be ‘Driving While Intexticating,’” said Upchurch. “We think this is a very current and important topic to bring before our school. We have all been passengers with someone who was texting and driving. I admit I would let it go sometimes, and didn’t say anything, but it bothered me.”

The passion behind the students’ message, which they will be presenting as competitors at the FCCLA Regional Leadership Conference this week, was reinforced after viewing an AT&T documentary titled “The Last Message.”

The video chronicles the true stories of four teens linked together by one common thread — a driver reading or sending texts while behind the wheel. One story is particularly tragic and is told by the victim’s sister, the sender of the message, the last message her younger sister read while driving.

“We’ve looked at a lot of statistics,” Upchurch said. “Texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving. Your vision might be impaired after you’ve been drinking, but when you’re texting, you’re not even looking at the road.

“When you’re texting, at least 10 percent of the time you are out of your lane. That makes a car crash more likely. You are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident when you are texting and driving.

“That’s 23 percent too much. It really bothers me when I’m with someone who is texting and driving. My older sister does it — and I call her out on it.”

To prove their point to classmates, the three set up a two-lane roadway in their classroom. They involved several “drivers” who actually walked the course. Some of the drivers were given cell phones and instructed to text and drive.

“They were all over the place,” Upchurch said. “They hit drivers coming the other way, or ran off the road and into pedestrians. I think it was a great demonstration of what really takes place.”

Lopez said a schoolwide survey polling students about their use of cell phones behind the wheel indicated it’s not a common practice at CHS.

“Not too many said they texted while driving, which surprised me,” she said. “I know we have kids who do — and have been in wrecks. A lot of people think, ‘Well, I’ve texted while driving and haven’t crashed.’ But why risk it?”

“A lot of people make up excuses, saying they take precautions. They increase the distance between vehicles or only text at stop lights. But it’s also about being defensive; what about the other driver, who is texting?”

While the students are hopeful that their project will be among the award winners at the FCCLA regional contest, their goal is to make a strong impression on their classmates.

“This is more than a project for us,” Upchurch said. “We want this to be one less thing to worry about when we are on the road. A lot of accidents involve teens and young adults. I think that makes our message even more relevant.”

They believe presenting their message teen-to-teen has made a difference.

“I think students sharing with other students makes the environment more laid back,” Upchurch said. “I think they understand and are more receptive because it’s coming from us. They still may joke about it, but I think we’re getting there. You never know. I think the fact that they see their peers taking the initiative makes it more cool — we’re not preaching.

“Speaking for the three of us. Doing the research and all the time we have spent being involved in this project—we’re not going to text and drive anymore. This has really opened our eyes.”

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