Teens To Drop The Phone And Drive

Thursday, November 6th 2008, 5:18 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

CLAREMORE, OK -- A national study says text messaging is the number one distraction for teens on the road.  And, some Green Country students are working to change that statistic.  One high school is gearing up ready for a special project to raise driver awareness.         

A Claremore teacher and her daughter were critically injured in September by a driver distracted by his cell phone.  Now, young adults are taking a closer look at their own habits behind the wheel and considering what's causing them to get distracted.

Nationwide, two-out-of-three teenagers send or receive texts while driving.

"I mean, I multi-task all the time, so texting while driving, you know, I thought I could do that, too," said Claremore senior Gloriana Esparza.

But, in September, a teenage driver hit Claremore teacher Mary Wilcox in a head-on crash.  The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says he was driving on the wrong side while talking on his cell phone.  Mary and her daughter, Autumn, were flown to the hospital.  Mary's still there.

"The doctors said I'll probably never have full use of my legs again," said Mary Wilcox, a Claremore teacher.

For Autumn's classmates, the news hits close to home.

"You hear about those kinds of things happening in other schools, in other states, but when it happens in your school, it really does affect you more," said Cass Wantland, a Claremore senior.

For two months, the school's been planning their project.  There are pledge cards, student-produced commercials; even bracelets students can buy as a fundraiser for medical bills.  That's because Mary Wilcox spent six weeks in intensive care.

"She was on the ventilator.  She was sedated. And, you know, she'd be sleeping a lot. And, you know, I couldn't even see her eyes or talk to her ever.  And, it was just really hard.  It was really hard," said junior Autumn Wilcox.

And, 17-year-old Autumn says her life will never be the same.

"I broke my femur in five different places.  Shattered my ankle.  I won't ever be able to walk normal again," said Autumn Wilcox.

She says Friday's pledge drive needs to drive home an important message:  texting while driving is no laughing matter.

After the all-day pledge drive, Claremore teachers are planning to bring the event to elementary schools later this year.

While eight-year-olds aren't getting behind the wheel, the teachers feel they are already texting and it is never too early to teach safety.  The students may also be able to remind their parents not to use their cell phones while driving.