Simulator shows dangers of texting and driving

COLUMBIA (WIS) - A car was parked on the front lawn of Spring Valley High School Monday morning, and it had everything to do with sending a text message while driving.

Officials with AT&T and their partner company "PEERS" brought a texting-and-driving simulator to the Midlands' high school as part of their "It Can Wait" public awareness campaign.

"Students sit in the car, put the virtual reality goggles on and they actually get to experience what it's like, and how dangerous it is to text while they're driving," said Ted Creech with AT&T. "It really drives home the point that texting while driving is very hazardous. There are 100,000 accidents a year that cause injury or death that are a result of a driver texting, and we want to do our part to make sure that people understand that this is a hazard to their own self and to others, added Creech.

AT&T officials say motorists who are texting while driving are 23 times more likely to get in an accident. This is the third year of the 'It Can Wait' campaign and the first stop at a South Carolina High School this school year. In addition to having students try the simulator, officials and school staff are also showing students videos from AT&T's 'The Last Text' documentary which focuses on the stories of individuals who have lost a loved one because of texting and driving.

"When we pull out real life stories to show people what the long term impact of being in an accident simply because you were sending a little small text message that didn't matter much at the time… we're trying to drive the point home that this is real, and this can have an impact on you," said Creech.

School faculty watched as the "It Can Wait" crew set up the simulator. Dr. Baron Davis, Principal at SVHS said he was grateful to have the crew at the school because a majority of their students drive to school. "It means a lot to our student body to give them the opportunity to experience firsthand, in a safe and secure environment, the effects of texting and driving," said Dr. Baron. "[It will] help them be aware that this is something that we want to prevent, and so we want to get the message out that this is something for them to take serious and something for them to be aware of not only for themselves but for their family and their friends, too."

Assistant Principal Jim Childers agrees and says he has experienced the effects of a texting while driving accident firsthand.  "I got one of those calls a parent never wants to receive and my son had been involved in an accident and it was a result of texting," said Childers. "Luckily, he survived it after being airlifted and having surgery and all. He's living and walking today, luckily, but it's a message I hope that a lot of people receive not just for our students, but adults because he was an adult and was texting and was injured and had an accident," added Childers.

Officials are asking students and their parents to take the "Never Text and Drive Pledge." They will be at Spring Valley High School throughout the day and will make their next stop in North Carolina tomorrow.  On September 19th, AT&T officials will ask all Americans to take a pledge to stop texting while driving.

AT&T representatives say you can get in on the conversation on Twitter and Facebook by using #itcanwait.  South Carolina House Representative Joan Brady (District 78) joined the conversation this morning, as well.

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