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“I don’t know how people drive with their knees while they eat,” the 17-year-old Sharyland High School junior said. “I almost drove off the road when I was talking to my (driving) instructor. I have to have my whole attention on the vehicle.”
Earlier this year, SHS students participated in an exercise testing their ability to weave around cones in a golf cart as they read and responded to text messages on their mobile phones. The students have also been faced with video testimonials of teenagers who were seriously injured in car accidents after they drove and sent or received a text message.
“It’s ludicrous someone could risk their own life for a text message,” said sophomore Chris Saenz, 15. “A text can wait. You’re not in a correct state of mind to send a text and drive a car.”
On Monday, the school engaged its students and the community in a nationwide pledge against texting and driving. The Allstate Foundation and Channel One News competition urges students to "X the TXT" and stay focused behind the wheel.
“Students can get involved with ‘X the TXT’ online and on-the-ground by asking their friends, family and fellow students to take the pledge not to text and drive,” said Susan Duchak from The Allstate Foundation. “The ‘X the TXT’ student program gives teens the chance to talk about the dangers of distracted driving and tell their community to keep their thumbs off their phones and their eyes on the road.”
Along with 260 other schools in the nation – three in the Rio Grande Valley – SHS is asking its 3,000 students and the community to participate by voting at www.channelone.com/xthetxt. There is no cost to participate, but individuals must be at least 13 years old with a valid e-mail address to pledge. The contest runs until Sunday at 6 p.m. As of Wednesday, about 75 percent of the student body had made their pledge, leaving SHS in eighth place for the competition.
In the grand prize, Sharyland can earn a $10,000 grant, a taping of Channel 1 News and as part of May’s National Youth Traffic Safety Month, the winning school earns a private concert featuring singer-songwriter Ashlyne Huff.
Librarian Janie Flores stressed the pledge is also aimed at the adults in the community who are guilty of texting and driving, too.
“They sometimes say it’s a right they have,” Flores said. “With that attitude you know it’s spreading to the students.”
Saenz said parents texting and driving in front of their children sets a bad example.
“People who text and drive are 23 times more likely to be in an accident,” he said. “And just like drunk drivers, people who text and drive and get into accidents and survive without a scratch, but that doesn’t make it fair to the other drivers.”
Outside the library, Flores and other staff have posted photos of car accidents with texting a main cause. There are also testimonials from staff and teachers about texting and driving.
“I am guilty of doing this just as everyone else is,” said Anna Garza from the English department. “I try not to do it and if I have to, then I wait at a red light or just pull over.”
Linda Cadena from the Go Center said she has her son read and respond to text messages while she drives. It’s faster and safer, she said.
Saenz said he was confident the campaign, along with testimonials about the consequences of texting and driving, would make an impact on his classmates.
“People are already talking about it,” he said. “And they’re starting to realize, ‘I better just wait.’”
Garza said she’s passionate about ensuring her friends and fellow motorists have devoted their concentration to driving.
“I want to prevent crashes and not just for the competition,” she said. “There are serious texting and driving consequences. In a few seconds my life can be over.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.