Texting and driving is a widespread epidemic since the rise of smartphones and social media. In fact, according to The National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Not to mention the effect it has on teens just learning to drive while utilizing social media as their primary communication. It can be hard to put down the phone, even with stiffer regulations in place for distracted driving. It is now not only illegal to text and drive, but holding your phone at all while you are driving is cause for a ticket. Knowing this law, people still struggle with putting their phone down.
A group of students at Olympia High School realized this problem and started their own campaign to limit distracted driving by bringing awareness to the dangers it causes. This group began with seniors Linh Le and Averie Stock. However, junior Paige Adderley was particularly interested in the cause as she had first hand experience with the dangers of distracted driving. Paige lost her sister to a texting and driving accident last year. Through this campaign, Paige hopes to spread awareness by sharing her sister’s story so people understand how risky it really is. Paige says, “People think it can’t happen to them, but seeing and hearing these stories can change their view.”
Before deciding on this cause to devote their time to, the group considered another project. They wanted to have a red dress gala to raise money as well as awareness for heart disease. Both Linh and Averie have family members that have suffered from it. However, after carefully thinking through their options, they decided on the texting and driving campaign. “It’s an issue that is just not talked about,” remarks Averie. And one that is all too relevant for their peers.
During both lunches at OHS during the week of December 11, there was a distracted driving awareness table set up. On the table was a pledge for students to sign saying they will not use their phone in any way while driving. After signing the pledge, students received a blue wristband with the phrase, “It Can Wait.” The table also included distracted driving statistics and a survey for people to take to better understand how students view the issues of distracted driving.
The schools morning announcements have also started adding a statistic about texting and driving so the students become more familiar with it. Even though this cause started at Olympia High School, other schools have agreed to participate and do the same thing to spread awareness. Instead of the normal rivalry between schools, Capital and River Ridge High Schools are working together with Olympia for the greater good.
This isn’t just about the school. The project team thinks it’s important for everyone to know about the dangers of distracted driving and they are striving to make it a community-wide event. They have hosted their booth at basketball games to inform parents. They set up a pledge table at the Olympia High School Bearzaar in November and collected over 300 signatures. They have many people involved in this project including the school’s entire DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) which includes around 80 people and ten people each from Capital and River Ridge.
The campaign encompasses a week-long process, however after the focused week of constant awareness-spreading, the group plans on finding ways to raise awareness again all year long so people don’t forget the issue. They hope to offer public service announcement videos to play at school later in the year in which they will interview people and talk about the dangers of distracted driving.
The team collected almost 500 signatures during the week of December 11 alone, just from Olympia High School students. They shared the “It Can Wait” campaign at the Friday December 15 assembly before students left for the winter break, again warning students about distracted driving and gave a shout-out to all the students who had already signed the pledge.
So far, the campaign has been a success due to the hard work of Linh, Averie and Paige and those who supported them, taking their time to spread awareness. But even more important is remembering their message. “No text, no post, is worth a life. If you drive distracted, you are not only putting yourself at risk, you are also endangering someone else.”