Simulator shows Choctaw students the danger of texting and driving
Nov 16, 2012 (Northwest Florida Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
FORT WALTON BEACH -- Students at Choctawhatchee High School got a taste of the consequences of texting and driving Friday in the safest way possible.
They were put behind the wheel of a simulator designed to show them what happens to their vehicle when they look down to text.
"It was pretty scary; I'm not going to lie," junior Jesse Seabolt said after sitting in the driver's seat. "It's scary that once I look down, my life is literally in my hands."
Watch the video shown to students about the dangers of texting and driving "
The 18-year-old said he doesn't text and drive. But if he did, the demonstration probably would have stopped him.
Seabolt was one of hundreds of students who participated in the event organized through the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, school officials and representatives from AT&T's "Txting & driving ... it can wait" campaign.
"Don't become a statistic," Ray Walker, a regional manager for AT&T, told the students. "When you're out driving in your car, there's no do-overs."
Superintendent of Schools Alexis Tibbetts, Sheriff Larry Ashley and Fort Walton Beach Mayor Mike Anderson also addressed the issue.
After the speeches, students were shown a short video featuring people who suffered the consequences of texting and driving. When it was over, many of the students stopped to reflect on the message with their friends.
"You can't text and look at the road at the same time; it's physically impossible," Shannon McDonald said while talking with four friends.
Like many students at Choctaw, McDonald knows all too well just how deadly the seemingly innocent activity can be. A few months ago, one of the 16-year-old's friends in Virginia died while texting and driving on the way to school.
McDonald said Friday's assembly was "hugely impactful," although she does not text and drive. However, it did prompt her to force the issue with friends, even if they weren't immediately receptive to the message.
Samantha Schultz, who escaped serious injury when she was rear-ended by someone texting and driving, said she wasn't sure the presentation would affect all her classmates the way it did her and McDonald.
"If anyone is not going to listen to anyone, it's teenagers," the 17-year-old said with a smile. "But it's better than not doing anything."
Zach Miller was one student whose perspective remained unchanged. He said the presentation was important, but wouldn't alter his habits. He uses the talk-to-text option on his phone to send and receive messages while driving. He never has to look down, he said.
"It's absolutely not about texting and driving," the senior said. "It's about being aware of what you're doing."
He said he puts the phone down when he's driving in highly congested areas. But in areas where there are no other vehicles or pedestrians, the 17-year-old is likely to check his phone.
As he paused, McDonald came back sporting the blue thumb ring given to students who pledged not to text and drive.
"I can wait, Zach," she said. "Can you "
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Katie Tammen at 850-315-4440 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieTnwfdn.
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