Nearly 230 students at Stevens Point Pacelli High School 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 school Monday morning.
Pacelli High School teamed up with AT&T, the Wisconsin State Patrol and State Rep. Katrina Shankland in a public awareness campaign to urge the school’s students, and all drivers, that text messages can – and should – wait until after driving.
“In this age of instant communication, we know how tempting it is for our teens to respond to a text message right away while driving – even though they know it’s dangerous and against the law,” said Principal Jeffrey Brengman. “We hope today’s assembly will convince our students to put down their phones while driving and take the pledge to never text behind the wheel.”
The event was part of a series of teen-focused assemblies being held at high schools around the state by AT&T, AAA and the Wisconsin State Patrol to drive home the dangers of texting and driving.
The assembly featured a new distracted driving simulator purchased by four Pacelli seniors as part of a community service project to educate teens and all drivers about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving. The seniors, Max Lundgren, Courtney Kizewski, Sydney Otis and Katie Olson, raised private funds to purchase a simulator they are using this spring to educate area students about the dangers.
AT&T, which has a national campaign aimed directly at stopping the dangerous practice of texting while driving, has donated $2,500 to support the simulator’s purchase.
The simulator will be housed at Mid-State Technical College later this spring, where it will be incorporated into the college’s criminal justice program. Students will learn how to use the simulator and will take it to schools throughout the area to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. Although housed at Mid-State, the simulator will also be available for use by law enforcement.
During Monday's assembly, students were 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.
“There is no doubt that texting and driving is extremely dangerous and just not worth risking your life or someone else’s,” said State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point). “I am proud to join in this effort to encourage our teens and all drivers to put down their phones when behind the wheel.”
The event also featured a showing of “The Joey Story” – a video about Pacelli graduate Joey Trzebiatowski who died with two other young men in a car crash in April 2012 due to alcohol use. The Pacelli seniors hope to prevent further tragic deaths like Joey’s by educating others about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving through the community simulator.
Wisconsin recently marked the second anniversary of its no-texting-while-driving ban on December 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.