Campaign sends a message against texting while driving

October 02, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • From left, Washington County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Daniel Henley, Boonsboro High School Principal Peggy Pugh and Student Government Association President Elie Nogle speak during a news conference at Boonsboro High Tuesday to kick off the Stay Alive! Don't Text and Drive campaign put on by Meritus Health.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — To many people, including teenagers, texting or looking at a phone while driving has almost become second nature.

Boonsboro High School senior Elie Nogle said the issue of distracted driving can be personal to her.

“I’ve known people who have died from accidents,” she said. “When we can see things like the graphics of an accident it checks people into reality.”

Nogle, 17, president of Boonsboro High’s Student Government Association, took part in Tuesday’s announcement of the Stay Alive! Don’t Text and Drive campaign put on by Meritus Health. She said that she could help take a leadership role in delivering the message against distracted driving.

“People can look at me and say, OK, if she’s going to do this then maybe we should do it too,’” she said. “The goal is to make people more conscious of it.”

The announcement of the in-school phase of the campaign was made in the cafeteria at Boonsboro High School on Tuesday morning. Washington County and Washington County Public Schools officials, Meritus Health representatives, and law enforcement officials took part, along with Boonsboro Mayor Skip Kauffman and the school’s principal, Peggy Pugh.

The in-school phase of the campaign is a partnership between Meritus Health and the school system.

Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox and Joseph Ross, president and CEO of Meritus Health, were among those who spoke at the event.

“This is an opportunity for Meritus Health as well as the school board and local law enforcement to really emphasize the perils of distracted driving.” Wilcox said. “It’s a chance for us to say to kids that it’s important they get where they’re going, and it’s important that they get there without having any accidents and without causing others to have accidents.”

As part of the campaign, students signed pledges to not text and drive. Students could receive a shirt, wristband and information about the dangers of distracted driving.

“Today vehicular accidents are the leading cause of injuries among teenagers,” Ross said. “We hope we can get a message to them and have a little fun. In the end, it’s about public safety.”

After a discussion about the importance of reducing distracted driving, Washington County Commissioner Terry Baker presented Ross with a proclamation declaring Oct. 14-20, 2012, as National Teen Driver Safety Week.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said that teenagers signing the pledge can help cut down on texting behind the wheel in multiple ways.

“The teenagers will sign the pledge and then they can go home and tell others not to text and drive,” she said. “It’s about our kids.”

Mike Bible of the Maryland Safety Highway Office told students it is important to implement programs that focus on reducing crashes across Maryland, including those caused by distracted driving.

“We need to make sure that being on the phone or texting is a clear distraction that could be avoided,” he said. “The whole objective is to reduce fatalities and injuries.”

Lieutenant Tom Woodward, commander of the Hagerstown barracks of Maryland State Police, said the campaign brings the problem of distracted driving to the forefront.

“Driving requires our ability to divide attention, but that can only go so far,” Woodward said. “It only takes a momentary distraction to hit someone. We all take driving for granted, but anything that’s impairing a person while driving is a danger on the roadway.”

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