Parkview High senior Danni Mussatt joins dozens of classmates on Thursday during lunch at the school to participate in the AT&T “It Can Wait Program” about not texting while driving. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
LILBURN — Aliya Abdulla sees texting while driving as a serious problem, especially among teenagers.
That’s why the Parkview High junior said she thought Thursday’s event during lunch was beneficial for the Panthers student body.
“It freaks us out,” said Abdulla, who added that not many adults text and drive. “We’re all new drivers anyway.”
Representatives from the 2013 AT&T “It Can Wait Program” about not texting while driving held a kickoff day on Thursday at Parkview and at dozens of schools across the state. AT&T representatives handed out decals for students to place on their cars, or their parents’ cars, and gave students thumb bracelets that had the inscription, “It can wait.”
They also encouraged students to sign a poster with their name and graduation year, a pledge that they wouldn’t text and drive.
“It’s good that they’re getting out and promoting it,” freshman Fain Allen said. “It’s life or death. If you can get the message across to ninth-graders, you can build habits now before they start driving.”
Dianne Andrews of AT&T staffing and recruiting, who was at Parkview, said teenagers are 23 percent more likely to be in a crash while texting and driving, and a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in five seconds.
Andrews encouraged younger students who aren’t driving to take the pledge and decal to their parents to discuss the repercussions and to make a family agreement, or have the person not driving send the text.
The problem, though, is temptation among teenagers.
“They feel like they should respond in less than five minutes,” Andrews said. “Our job is to raise awareness about the issue and maybe save one life.”
AT&T representatives setup during lunch where they showed short videos about the issue, but also distributed packets to teachers, Andrews said. They may return to schools during prom season to show a simulator of what happens to a driver and car if someone is texting and driving.
“It could influence people so they won’t get hurt,” Parkview junior Samantha Lloyd said.
Senior Danni Mussatt agreed, and said she puts her phone in her backpack on silent when she’s driving.
“I know how stupid people are when they’re holding their phones,” she said. “I have a family member who is one of those. Even if you think you’re a good driver, anything could happen.”
The issue hit close to home for AT&T employee Steven Sims, who said his cousin was texting and driving, flipped a car and eventually lost a leg in an accident.
“Of course you don’t know what the impact will be,” Andrews said. “I would love to say it will be 100 percent, but you know somebody will say, ‘I’ll just write, ‘yes,’ it doesn’t take that long, but it does take a long time. Just one second of not paying attention and you can have an accident.”