By Chris Mellides
As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, Walt Whitman High School hosted its 3rd annual “It Can Wait” event to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving with the aid of oral and video presentations and a virtual reality 3-D simulator.
The high school, together with its partner AT&T and New York State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington), welcomed Walt Whitman high school seniors into the school auditorium, where they were joined by their teachers and local law enforcement members.
After viewing a short documentary called “The Last Text,” which focused on the dangers of texting while driving and featured testimonials of survivors and family members whose loved ones died while texting on the road, Brandon Ray, AT&T Regional Director of External Affairs for all of Long Island, spoke to students and faculty.
Following the video presentation, Ray asked students how they felt after seeing the video and how they would best describe the experience.
One high school senior in the audience said that he knew of a person who died as a result of texting while driving and that it, texting while on the road “really can wait.”
Ray claimed that nine people die and countless are injured per day as a result of texting while driving and that a person is “much more likely to become involved in a traffic accident due to texting and driving.”
Ray then asked the 450 high school seniors if they have every texted or have seen someone they know texting while driving. Almost immediately, almost all of the hands went up.
“When 50 percent of high schoolers do text, you are 23 times more likely to get into a serious accident, so I think that really drove home to them today,” Lupinacci said. “They also got to try out the simulator so they could see the hazards of texting while driving.”
At the end of the event, some students signed a pledge to not text while driving on a large placard by the auditorium stage, while others lined up for the opportunity to experience the 3-D simulator, which employed a headset and strong audio to recreate a realistic crash experience for the headset wearer who texts while driving during the simulation.
Walt Whitman high school senior Daniel Moreira admits to texting while driving and said that the day’s presentation was “very moving” and that he “never thought about texting in that way” before.
“The car accidents and the stories that people told on the screen was very moving and very upsetting,” Moreira said. “I’m glad I got to experience it all, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t feel this terrified about texting and driving. I’ll never do it again.”