Local students get graphic lesson in texting and driving

Daquan Williams, a senior at DuVal High School, gets a lesson that could save his life. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

LANHAM, Md. – For young people, simply telling them about the dangers of texting and driving isn’t enough. Hoping to avoid a tragedy, a local school has brought in new technology to show kids how easy it is for distracted drivers to end up in a serious accident.

DuVal High School in Lanham recently welcomed the AT&T’s It Can Wait Campaign, which travels from school to school with a life-like simulator students can use.

“They have real-life things along the way, like red lights to worry about, other cars on the road, even bad drivers that pull out in front of them,” said Griffin Hagler, tour manager for the It Can Wait campaign.

The simulator takes kids through eight city blocks. As they use the steering wheel as well as the brakes and gas, they’re asked to respond to text messages. Hagler says there are plenty of statistics to convey to kids how dangerous distracted driving really is, but letting them experience it first-hand really drives the message home.

Before the students got down to driving, they were given a presentation featuring victims and families of victims whose lives were changed after a distracted-driving crash.

“It is prom season and we want to make sure our children are safe and that they are aware,” says Alice Swift, principal of DuVal High School. She says they’re open to any training tools that help get the message across that text messages can wait. “Those actions can cause greater harm then they really think about,” she said.

Not one student made it through the course without crashing or getting pulled over for violating the laws of the road.

“Your attention’s on the road, but you look down for a quick second and you look back up and you’re on the other side of the road,” said senior Towsin Adebaio, who, within two minutes of the simulation, drifted into oncoming traffic and hit another car.

“I have to cut down or stop completely because it can actually really impact my life,” he added.

“Wow, just to send a two-letter text, just cost somebody their life,” says senior Dudley Dodoo. “It’s just putting people’s lives at risk and it’s not worth it.”

Freshman Dominique Lyew-sang hasn’t even started driving yet, but has now experienced a crash due to texting while driving. “I was looking at the text, I looked, then I looked back,” Lyew-sang said about the simulated accident. She feels this type of training does a good job of teaching her and her friends about what can happen if you lose focus on the road, even for a second. “Don’t text and drive,” she said simply.

By the time the event concluded, students were chanting the campaign’s motto “Texting and driving, it can wait.” The school and the event organizers hope they remember that the next time they get a text while behind the wheel.

You and your student can use the simulators on the It Can Wait campaign’s website.

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