ST. MARYS — Local students listened to a recent graduate about the dangers of texting while driving during their health classes on Wednesday.
Shelby Core, a 2011 graduate of St. Marys Memorial High School, visited the students in Monica VanderHorst’s health classes on Wednesday to discuss texting while driving, a topic she chose to cover during an advocacy project in one of her classes at Ohio Northern University.
“You guys listened to Officer Blank talk about sexting, well that’s about sending messages to people while you’re at school or at home, this is about texting and driving,” VanderHorst said. “Many of you in here don’t have your license yet ... This pertains to you and it also pertains to you riding in someone else’s vehicle, you guys as individuals who are usually passengers the same applies to you.”
She noted it doesn’t always pertain to being in a car.
“In any type of vehicle, motorized or nonmotorized, texting can be dangerous,” VanderHorst said.
VanderHorst introduced Core — her former student and volleyball player — who told the students how she got involved with work promoting the dangers of texting and driving.
“I took a class this semester called government advocacy,” Core said. “Our main thing we had to do was this big project on advocating something. I had to choose my project around the same time as the accident with Taylor (Baldauf) all happened, and because of what happened my senior year last year where my friend’s mom got hit by a driver that was texting. So I figured this would be a good idea for me to do my advocacy project on.”
Core noted she contacted her Congressmen by writing letters including facts about the dangers of driving and texting and asking them about what they were planning on doing for the matter.
“I also got about 300 people at my college to sign a pledge that they wouldn’t text or drive for a week,” she said, adding she also contacted VanderHorst asking if she had done anything in class about texting while driving. “She said you guys were going to do something, and she asked me if I would come and talk to you guys and I told her I will.”
VanderHorst noted she saw an article in “Current Health” magazine called “DN’T TXT N DRV: Why you should disconnect while driving,” which she shared with Core.
“I thought it would be good for her to come in and talk about what she learned in school, a former student here, and what she’s going to bring back to us as teachers and also as students,” VanderHorst said.
The article, VanderHorst noted, describes the story of Wil Craig, who was in a car with his girlfriend who was driving and texting.
The two got into an accident, with Craig suffering from serious injuries, and after he recovered, Craig went out and started talking to teens about texting and driving.
Currently, law in 30 states and in the District of Columbia — Ohio is not one of them — make it illegal to text or send e-mail while driving, eight states plus the District of Columbia completely ban the use of a handheld phone while driving and 31 states have separate restrictions for teens, including bans on using phones while driving or texting while driving. Federal law bans texting while driving for interstate truck drivers.
“We hear the stats, we hear of the fatalities, and people just say, ‘That’s not going to happen to me,’” VanderHorst said. “We want you to be aware because we have been affected here at St. Marys. Family members, friends that have been injured or possibly killed because of texting and driving.”
Core and VanderHorst then noted the different distractions in a car, in addition to texting while driving, such as reaching for something, putting on makeup, eating, passengers, GPS, adjusting music, etc., before Core showed the students a video done by AT&T interviewing families affected by teens who have texted and driven.
“That shows you that you can be sending the simplest text message like ‘LOL’ or ‘yeah’ or something and you can change your life or you can kill someone or you can kill yourself,” Core said.
“Before I did this whole thing and watched these videos ... You don’t think about that while you’re driving down the road. You don’t think that you could get in a wreck or anything like that, but the simplest little thing, sending that one text message or that one word, that could kill you. It’s just not worth it.”
She also noted other facts — 5 seconds is the average time a person’s eyes are off the road while he or she is texting while driving and a texting driver is 23 more times more likely to get into a crash than a nontexting driver.
Core noted when she was in driver’s education, drinking and driving was stressed but not texting and driving, but that could’ve changed in today’s classes.
“What I’ve seen — if you’re drinking and driving it increases your chances by four of getting into a wreck and that’s if you’re just a little bit above the legal limit, and if you’re texting and driving, some sites say eight times from distracted driving but this one says 23,” Core said. “It blows my mind that we have laws against drinking and driving, but we don’t have laws against texting and driving.”
She added there is a current bill in the state legislature that was passed by the House — House Bill 99 — currently in the Senate that if passes would ban texting while driving in Ohio and include education about the consequences of texting while driving in driver’s ed classes.
“While Ohio has a whole state doesn’t have that right now, there are cities and towns in Ohio where you cannot text and drive,” Core said, noting Columbus is one of the cities that has a ban on texting while driving.
Her work on this project, Core noted, has changed her mind about texting and driving.
“I don’t ever see myself wanting to do that after everything I’ve learned doing this,” she said. “It’s just, it’s just not worth it.”
Core also led the students through different distracted driving simulations online to see how they could do.