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Anti-texting while driving campaign teaches high schoolers

Published:   |   Updated: September 21, 2013 at 05:45 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - A Vermont woman was walking her dog when she was hit by a teenager texting and driving.

The woman went over the windshield and neighbors found her lying in the grass. At the hospital, she had to have the blood in her skull drained to relieve pressure on the brain and had a shattered pelvis, ripped-off thumb and permanent brain damage, among other injuries.

Family members no longer know the woman who surfaced from that coma.

The teenager who hit her served 30 days in jail and received 500 hours community service.

This was one of several stories portrayed in a documentary seen by almost all of Hernando High School's students Thursday, and was part of the "It Can Wait" campaign.

"There are stories like that all over Hernando County," said Brooksville auto accident and injury attorney, Frank Miller. "We don't want you to be a part of that story."

The anti-texting while driving campaign, sponsored by AT&T, was headed Thursday by Matt Mucci as one of 11 counties he's responsible for. Miller and school staff collaborated to bring the campaign's message to Hernando County high school students.

"It's just a safety issue," Mucci said. "It's all about creating awareness."

It's not just for teenage drivers, either, said Miller. Students can act as role models to their peers and parents.

"We all do it," Miller said about texting and driving. "You see so many accidents are preventable, so I'm thankful to be a part of that message."

According to statistics provided by the campaign, 3,417 messages were exchanged per teenager in 2011, or seven per every waking hour. Texting is also the number one mode of communication, the statistics show, and 75 percent of all teenagers text.

Mucci gave students the chance to sign a pledge to not text and drive as well as drive a computer simulator while answering text messages at the same time.

One simulation resulted in many traffic violations and quickly ended in a T-bone accident.

Starting in October, a state law will take effect to prevent such scenarios, making texting and driving a secondary traffic offense enforceable by a fine.

"It's a step in the right direction," Miller said about the new law.

Hernando High School teacher Nicole Poggi said she was grateful the campaign was able to be at the school and present its message to students.

"It's a message really important for the kids," she said.

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