No Texting and Driving Assembly draws a crowd

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Nearly 400 MHS seniors learned about the dangers of texting and driving and were urged to sign a pledge to never text behind the wheel during an event at the Performing Arts Center on Monday.

Middleton High School teamed up with AT&T, AAA, the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department and State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein in a public awareness campaign to urge the school’s students, and all drivers, that text messages can – and should – wait until after driving.

“Our young people too often think they are invincible, but they need to know that texting while driving is very dangerous and can be deadly,” Middleton High School Head Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann said. “As prolific texters and inexperienced drivers, teens are particularly at risk. We are proud to join in this effort to spread the word about the dangers and urge all of our students to pledge never to text and drive.”

The assembly was covered by WISC-Ch. 3 and WMTV-Ch. 15. Ch. 3 also did two segments on its morning show. Scroll to the bottom of the page to view one of the segments.

The assembly was part of a series of high school events being held around the state by AT&T, AAA and the Wisconsin State Patrol to drive home the dangers of texting behind the wheel. Two students were given the chance to experience firsthand the dangers of texting while driving in a safe setting through AAA’s distracted driving simulator. They were also shown a powerful AT&T documentary called “The Last Text” that shares real stories about lives altered or ended by someone’s decision to text and drive.

Students were also urged to visit It Can Wait website to take the no-texting-and-driving pledge, and then share their promise with others via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook. More than 1.2 million people across the country have already taken the pledge to never text and drive. The pledge effort is part of AT&T’s national public awareness campaign aimed directly at stopping the dangerous practice of texting while driving.

“Far too many lives have been forever changed because someone decided to text behind the wheel, and we want to spread the word about how deadly a simple text can be,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin. “We’re challenging all drivers, particularly our teens, to take the pledge to never text and drive and make it a lifelong commitment.  There is simply no text message worth dying for.”

Wisconsin marked the second anniversary of its no-texting-while-driving ban on Dec. 1, 2012.  The law prohibits sending an e-mail or text message while driving and imposes a fine of up to $400. As a primary enforcement law, officers may stop and ticket drivers solely for texting and driving.  Wisconsin is among 39 states that ban text messaging by all drivers.

“Studies show that drivers who send text messages behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to be in a crash,” State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) said. “Texting and driving is just not worth risking your life or someone else’s.  We hope today’s assembly will drive home the dangers of texting and driving and encourage our youth to put down their phones while on the road.”

Major Sandra Huxtable of the Wisconsin State Patrol also spoke at Monday's assembly.

Texting and driving is involved in more than 100,000 vehicle crashes each year, often causing injuries and deaths, according to the National Safety Council. Studies show teen drivers are particularly at risk. While 97 percent of teens say they know texting while driving is dangerous, 75 percent say the practice is “common” among their friends, according to an AT&T survey.

In 2012, 165 organizations joined AT&T in helping spread the message and encourage people to make a pledge to never text and drive.  This year, AT&T is working to expand the campaign even further, including:

•    Working with device makers to pre-load no-texting-while-driving technologies and solutions into handsets, with the goal of making these solutions standard on all AT&T smartphones; and
•    Launching a year-round no-texting-while-driving simulator tour targeting more than 380 events nationwide

In addition to Middleton High School, Wisconsin assemblies have already been held this school year at Brookwood High School in Ontario, East Junior High School in Wisconsin Rapids, Denmark High School, Three Lakes High School, Stevens Point Pacelli High School, St. Francis High School, Brookfield Central High School, Burlington High School, Edgar High School, La Crosse Logan High School and Washington Park High School in Racine.  Events are being planned this spring in Algoma and Eau Claire, among others.

For more information on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, please visit: their website. For more information on teen driving and AAA’s national initiative to ban texting while driving in every state by 2013, please visit the Teen Driving website.

To see more photos from the assembly and Ch. 3's morning show filming, please visit the district's Facebook page.

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