On the road to safety
By EMILY GIGLIO – News Writer, 2010-11
Originally published September 2010
According to a poll* by the ODYSSEY Newsmagazine, three in four Clarke Central High School student drivers text behind the wheel.
“I usually put my phone up so I can see the road and the phone at the same time, and I’m usually driving with my knees,” senior Maya Golan said. “I’m generally a good multi-tasker, so I’m more than likely putting makeup on and texting and driving and doing other things.”
Habits, such as Golan’s, constitute distracted driving, which is considered any activity that forces a driver to engage in something other than the primary task of driving. According to the National Department of Transportation’s official website for distracted driving, “nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than half a million were injured.”
In an attempt to decrease this number on the state-wide scale, Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue signed Caleb’s Law on June 4, which states: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway … while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text-based communication.”
Originally Senate Bill 360, Caleb’s Law is named after Caleb Sorohan, a Morgan County High School graduate, who was killed in an accident in December 2009. During the seven-minute period prior to his wreck, Sorohan had sent and received six text messages. His phone was found in his lap.
On July 1, Caleb’s Law went into effect across the state. Locally, Athens-Clarke County police are now watching for violators, who, if caught, are subject to a $150 fine. Thirty other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws banning texting while driving.
“(The new law) makes us more aware to look for violations like that, so I think we actually see more (texting) because we pay attention to it,” Tommy Barnett, an ACC police officer and CCHS’ resource officer, said.
Golan feels that although law enforcement officials, are citing offenders, Caleb’s Law is difficult to enforce.
“I’ve had my license for over a year now and I’ve never had a traffic violation. I don’t see how they could prove that I’m texting and driving besides looking at my phone records,” Golan said.
National awareness groups work to raise consciousness of not only Caleb’s Law and its consequences, but of the dangers presented by texting while driving.
Safe Campuses Now, a non-profit organization founded 20 years ago to promote student safety, produced a series of awareness posters that cover topics ranging from date rape prevention to texting while driving. CCHS has these posters on display along the school’s hallways. The content of the posters has gained attention on campus.
“The posters have a good message and are just graphic enough that it scares me to not text while driving,” sophomore Sophie Chen said.
CCHS Principal Dr. Robbie Hooker feels the message of the posters should not be clouded by their graphic presentation.
“What would it take — for one of us to lose a classmate here? How would it curb your behavior? Is it worth it?” Hooker said. “I don’t think students will actually stop until it hits home. I hope (the posters) rattle them and make them want to stop.”
The posters depict the risks those driving distracted from texting take — injuring or killing themselves and others.
University of Georgia senior Brianna Goad is a victim of the repercussions of texting while driving. Seven years ago while driving on the Atlanta Highway, Goad, a Watkinsville native, was texting when she drove her car off the Atlanta Highway and flipped it. She suffered from a broken collarbone and a concussion. While no one was in the car with her and no one else was injured, the accident left an impression.
“I think a majority (of drivers) probably feel like ‘Oh, (an accident) won’t happen to me.’ It’s so easy to think that,” Goad said. ”I don’t think people realize the seriousness of (texting and driving) and that it can ruin lives.”
CCHS junior Deteriun Kitchens has ridden in the car with those who text while driving. He feels that eliminating distractions, in the driver’s seat is the only answer to staying safe on the road.
“When you are driving, you need to be focused on one thing — to get where you need to go,” Kitchens said, “You need to be focused on the road and not (texting) — not doing two things at once.”