Teens learn dangers of texting while driving

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Hundreds of Wisconsin students are getting a lesson about the dangers of texting while driving.

More than 600 teens from across Wisconsin gathered this week in Wisconsin Dells for the Family Career and Community Leaders of America Summit, where they learned about the dangers of distracted driving.

Students from Oak Creek High School’s FCCLA chapter created an interactive obstacle course. It includes traffic signals, pedestrians and a talkative passenger to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving.

“It was very confusing. I tried to get it as perfect as possible, but it just wasn’t possible,” said Jackie Bedtka, of Stuben, one of the students who attempted to navigate the roadway on a bicycle while sending a text message.

As one student leader put it, the message is simple — “there’s no text worth dying over.”

Oak Creek High School students, along with the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Wisconsin Family Career and Community Leaders of America and AT&T Wisconsin, organized the summit.

Representatives from AT&T brought a documentary called “The Last Text” about lives changed or ended by texting.

“The statistics say they are 23 times more likely to be in an accident. When you combine that with teens are five times more likely to be texting than the average adult, it pretty much puts a spotlight on where the biggest part of the problem lies,” says Scott VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin.

Like most of the teens at the summit, Bedtka isn’t old enough to drive yet, but she said hearing this message from her peers helps drive the point home.

“Most teenagers just don’t really understand yet. They haven’t been experienced enough maybe. They just don’t understand how bad it could get,” Bedtka said.

VIDEO: Teens learn dangers of texting while driving

After completing the obstacle course, the students received thumb bands to remind them that texting can and should wait.

“These thumb bands say, ‘Texting kills.’ What we want with them is kids to wear them on their thumbs they don’t pick up their phones as they drive and start texting with their thumbs,” Oak Creek student Didi Al-Zubeidi.

Organizers also gave the teens strategies, like asking a passenger to type the text for the driver while he or she drives.

“Waiting until you are in a safe spot is the right decision,” said Amanda Drews, an FCCLA advisor.

AT&T is also encouraging Blackberry or Android users to download the free AT&T DriveMode app. If drivers receive a text when they are behind the wheel, the app will send an automatic reply to the sender letting them know that person is driving and will reply to the text later.

It’s illegal in Wisconsin to send an email or text message while driving. According to the Wisconsin State Patrol, people who are caught texting and driving could face a fine of $187.90 and four points against their license.