By Ed Runyan
Like teens surveyed by AT&T, many students at Lakeview High School said Thursday they realize texting while driving is dangerous, but they do it anyway.
The message they received by using a texting-and-driving simulator and hearing about Ohio’s new no-texting law is that doing it could have much more serious consequences than they realized.
AT&T brought a simulator to the school parking lot that allowed students to see what they are missing when they turn their eyes away from the road.
Shayla Williamson, a junior, said it may be that people her age are not as good at multitasking as everyone thinks.
“I think it helped to show how hard it is to focus and do more than one thing at a time,” she said.
Williamson agreed that it’s extremely hard to ignore the phone when it alerts her that someone is texting her.
To avoid the temptation, Williamson said it makes sense to put the phone on silent or turn it off while driving.
“We think we can do all of this, but we can’t. It’s dangerous,” junior Kennedy Sidley agreed after running a stop sign and crossing the center line while attempting to tap out a text message on the simulator.
Junior Laura Ogurchak admits she is not capable of texting while driving.
“I’m personally really bad at multitasking. I know I never could,” she said of texting while driving, adding, “My dad would kill me” if he thought she was doing it.
The simulator also reminded sophomore Chris Romano of times when he’s seen drivers wandering around the road because their eyes were focused on the phone.
“It bugs me because I know they’re not just endangering themselves but everyone around them,” he said.
The simulator showed students being unaware that other drivers were leaving their lane of travel and encroaching on the student’s driving space.
“If you’re paying attention and someone cuts you off, you have the reaction time to slam on your brakes, but if you’re texting you’re not going to be able to,” said Grant Lancucki, one of the employees running the simulator.
“When they hit the jaywalker, I hear them say, ‘I had the green light,’ but when you’re not texting, there’s time to see what other people are doing wrong.”
AT&T says 97 percent of teens in a survey indicated they think texting while driving is dangerous, but 43 percent admit they do it.
Seventy-five percent say the practice is common among their friends.
Lt. Brian Holt, commander of the Southington Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, reminded students at an assembly that Ohio law now makes texting or handling any type of electronic device while driving an offense for drivers 17 and under. A first offense costs $150.
For adults, the ban stops at texting and likewise takes effect in six months. Making and receiving phone calls is still legal for adults.
The texting ban took effect Aug. 31, but tickets won’t be written until March, after a six-month grace period.
But something to consider is that if a teen violates some other law because of texting — such as crossing the center line — he or she can be cited for the other offense, Trooper Lauren Merz said.
State Rep. Sean O’Brien of Brookfield, D-65th, told the students he was a co-sponsor of the new law because he saw too many situations while working as a juvenile prosecutor in which a teen caused a crash that shattered the lives of the offender, a friend or family members.
“The hardest ones were when a driver killed someone. It was very hard to be the parent. Kids cry if they kill their best friend,” he said.
Lakeview is only the third school district in the state to get a visit from the AT&T simulator, said Holly Hollingsworth, AT&T spokeswoman.
AT&T is urging all drivers to go to www.itcanwait.com Wednesday, make a no-texting pledge and make a lifelong commitment to refrain from texting and driving.