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Federal Way teens pledge to stop texting while driving
With cellphone use skyrocketing 300 percent since the year 2000, the issue of texting and driving has become a major one, especially for teenagers and their parents.
That's why Jason Epstein, a lawyer with the Premier Law Group in Bellevue, and the founder of the website/organization Teens Against Distracted Driving (TADD), visited Todd Beamer High School on Dec. 21.
Epstein wanted to spread awareness of how incredibly dangerous texting and driving can be, especially for teen drivers.
"We're going to try today to save your life," Epstein said at the beginning of his hour-long presentation. "The effects of a simple text message can have some dramatic and long-lasting effects, that not only affect your life, but…other lives as well."
For teen drivers, the issue of texting and driving is magnified. According to Epstein, 52 percent of U.S. teens send more than 50 text messages a day. 32 percent of teens send more than 100 texts during any given day, while 16 percent of teens send more than 200 texts daily.
Those incredible numbers come into play when compared against how much more likely accidents can happen when a driver is distracted in any way.
According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that Epstein shared, people are three times more likely to be in a car accident if they're busy reading something. Dialing a phone number increases the likelihood of an accident by three times, while looking at an object — something on the passenger's seat, for example — increases the chances of an accident by four times. Reaching for something while driving means an accident is nine times more likely to happen.
The likelihood of an accident because of texting and driving exceeds the previous figures, Epstein said.
"You are 23 times more likely to be in an accident while you're texting," Epstein shared.
Along with that startling statistic, Epstein said that texting and driving is two times more dangerous than drunk driving. 28 percent of all car crashes in the U.S. are caused by some kind of distracted driving, and 65 percent of near crashes involved some kind of distracted driving.
In 2009, 448,000 people were injured, and approximately 5,500 people died in texting-related accidents. Teens are especially vulnerable in this area, because car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among the age group.
Part of Epstein's presentation was to have Diana Jones, a parent who lost her daughter last year to a texting and driving accident, share her story.
Through a voice choked up with tears, Jones told the story of her daughter, Ashley, who lost her life when she took her eyes off the road for a few brief seconds and crossed the centerline of a two-way highway. On the other side, Ashley collided head-on with a semi-truck.
For Jones, she said one of the most painful things she's had to cope with is watching her surviving two children cope with the loss of their big sister.
"My daughter told me she shouldn't be able to be older than her older sister," she said. "Last February, she was."
Jones works with Epstein to spread the message about distracted driving, and also makes sure that Diana's legacy continues in other ways. The vehicle that Ashley was driving on the night of her accident was donated to the Washington State Patrol, and WSP takes that vehicle to the Puyallup Fair and other such places as a reminder of how dangerous texting and driving is for all involved.
At Todd Beamer High School, Epstein offered pledge cards for students and their parents. If the students filled out the pledge card, they received a wristband and an entry into a drawing for gift cards from Target and other similar stores.
To learn more about TADD, visit teensagainstdistracteddriving.com.