By Jennifer Robertson
Statistics show over 100,000 accidents each year are due to texting and driving. New laws are being passed from state to state and individuals are paying stiff penalties if they are caught texting behind the wheel. If involved in an accident, some have paid with their own lives or suffered serious injuries. Others have killed or injured innocent bystanders.
On Nov. 13, Amarillo College held a presentation titled ‘Share the Road’ in the Oak Room of the College Union Building with guest speakers Mark Nair, Amarillo traffic commissioner, and Ken Graham, president of SharetheRoad.org. The event was open to the public and hosted by AC Student Life and the Student Government Association.
AC students and members of the community were present to openly discuss the dangers of texting while driving.
The event began with a documentary film titled From One Second to the Next, directed by Werner Herzog. It was originally produced for AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. The film takes a look at the impact accidents caused by texting and driving have on victims, their families and the perpetrators.
“That’s a tough one for me to watch, every single time I see it,” said Nair, referring to what some students described as a heart-wrenching documentary. “Tonight I hope we can get past the raw emotion and get down to solutions from all of us to figure out the best way to handle this.”
SGA members moderated discussion at the tables while students and other attendees expressed their concerns and possible strategies to raise awareness and practice safe driving without texting.
Local laws affecting drivers were also discussed. In January 2013, the City of Amarillo passed a no-texting and driving ordinance that comes with a $200 fine. Less than 100 tickets have been issued by local law enforcement since the passage of the ordinance. No texting while driving signs have also been posted in school zones.
“Statistics show 90 percent of teens know it is dangerous to text and drive, yet 60 percent of them do it anyways,” Graham said.
Some of the solutions discussed were to raise the fines and require driver’s education students and traffic offenders to take a course over not texting while driving. Others thought cell phone applications that would prevent the act itself, more public service announcements and law enforcement cracking down on offenders would also be effective strategies.
“My first car accident was caused by texting and driving. It totaled my car, I got a ticket and had to take defensive driving,” said Seth Brogdon, SGA member and music and engineering major. “Thankfully, nobody was hurt.”
Brogdon openly admitted that he still had continued to text and drive since the accident.
“After tonight that is going to change,” Brogdon said.
Before leaving, attendees were encouraged to take the no-texting and driving pledge and sign a banner that read, “Arrive Alive: Don’t Text and Drive.”
Brogdon said he thinks the event was successful but there is still work to be done.
“It is going to be a task with our ‘always connected’ society,” said Brogdon. “But I believe in the program and the potential massive future impact it will have.”