Coronado High School students learn dangers of texting while driving

Coronado High School student Consuelo Arroyo, 15, tests the limits to texting and driving. (Photo by Kourtney Seaton)

Coronado High School student Consuelo Arroyo, 15, tests the limits to texting and driving. (Photo by Kourtney Seaton)

AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign brought a traveling simulator to Coronado High School in Scottsdale on Friday, March 27 to educate students on the dangers of texting while driving.

The simulator is designed like a game — but is meant to drive home the cold, hard reality of just how dangerous it is to take your eyes off the road, even for a brief moment.

The campaign travels around the country to different schools and community events, says Scott Huscher, AT&T campaign spokesperson.

“This is a visual that shows people firsthand that when you take your attention away from the road, bad things can happen.”

The traveling exhibit proved its point, at least to some students: 190 Coronado students signed a pledge promising to never again text and drive at the same time.

According to a recent study, more than 200,000 vehicle accidents each year are caused by texting and driving, often causing injuries and deaths. A car crash is caused every five minutes because a driver was texting.

“We are trying to continue to spread awareness and help people see the dangers so they will change their habits,” Mr. Huscher said.

AT&T found that one in three people have changed their habit to text and drive after being exposed to the “It Can Wait” message. Since the program was launched in 2009, 6.2 million people have taken the pledge to never text and drive .

The campaign strives to get the word out that this behavior is socially unacceptable.

Coronado High School principal Alyssa Tarkington supporting students during AT&T’s “It Can Wait” event. (Photo by Kourtney Seaton)

Coronado High School principal Alyssa Tarkington supporting students during AT&T’s “It Can Wait” event. (Photo by Kourtney Seaton)

“It’s on the level of drinking and driving because of how dangerous it is,” Mr. Huscher said.

“Students get to live and feel (the danger) without the detrimental consequences,” AT&T Spokesperson Chris Johnson said.

Students were invited to “drive” in the simulator, and watch the documentary, “The Last Text” by Werner Herzog. The film depicts stories of real people whose lives were changed forever because they either caused an accident while texting and driving, or else they were the victims of someone who was texting while driving.

“My deepest desire and anticipation is that even if it’s a handful of students that take the pledge and not only commit to driving safely — but also remind their parents or siblings — then we’ve made a difference,” Coronado High School Principal Alyssa Tarkington said.

Students of Coronado High School described the event as impactful and a great way to gain firsthand experience of the dangers of texting and driving.

The moment Consuelo Arroyo, 15, picked up the phone during the simulator drive, she started swerving and ultimately crashed into a parked car.

“I’ve heard the average time it takes to look at a text message is two seconds and that’s the time it takes for you to get distracted and get off the road. But you don’t actually see the impact until you actually go through this [event],” Miss Arroyo said.

Scarlet Reynoso, 18, said the event was an eye opener. “You don’t realize what can happen while you’re using your phone and driving at the same time. You’re concentrating on two things and it gets complicated to do both.”

Not many realize what happens when you text and drive, and the exhibit allows you to experience the consequenses. That experience, said Lucero Fernandez, 15, is enough to make you think twice about texting and driving.

“I think other schools should try this to know what the dangers are behind texting and driving.”

Fernandez said her experience on the simulator was “scary and (I) couldn’t imagine texting and driving at the same time.”

Destiny Spooner, 18, said the simulator drive was a lot harder than it looked. Ms. Spooner said she drives now and hasn’t thought about what could happen if she was distracted for one second.

To join the “It Can Wait” movement, visit ItCanWait.com to take the pledge to never text and drive.

Editor’s note: Kourtney Seaton is a student at Arizona State University.

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