LHS students learn dangers of distracted driving

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It remains one of the biggest conundrums for law enforcement officials across the state: why can’t drivers understand that texting while driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence.

In 2017, according to statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation, more than 100,000 traffic crashes (out of more than 535,000) involved distracted driving.

These crashes accounted for 444 deaths and nearly 2,900 serious injuries.

And for anyone who spends any amount of time on the road nowadays, “distracted driving’’ -- more often than not -- translates into cell phone use, primarily texting while driving.

Students at Lindale High School recently got a timely reminder of how dangerous it is to text while driving thanks to a demonstration from Mike Guidry, Passenger Safety Team Program Coordinator with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

His appearance at the high school was sponsored by local insurance agent R.J. Collins.

Along with a sobering video showing the tragic effects of texting while driving, Guidry brought a special mockup of how easy it is to wind up in a crash if you text and drive.

One student after another took a seat behind the steering wheel and tried to navigate a typical highway situation while reading and sending text messages.

In a few seconds, each “driver’’ wound up in a ditch or in a massive accident.

Guidry feels this program serves a worthwhile purpose and can help save lives.

“We’ve gotten some very positive feedback from the kids across this region,’’ he said. “Especially when we are able to use machines like this, where they can actually get a feel for what it’s like to have a wreck while texting and driving.’’

Guidry knows the signs of a distracted driver.

“They are always driving way too slow and they are impeding traffic,’’ he said, adding they will be weaving in and out of their lane.

The statewide law that makes it illegal for all drivers to read, write or send a text and drive in Texas went into effect Sept. 1, 2017.

TxDOT officials launched their “Heads Up’’ campaign shortly thereafter.

By definition, distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distractions can include anything from texting and talking on a mobile phone to eating and drinking, putting on makeup, shaving, reading, programming a navigation system, watching a video and even adjusting the radio.

Law enforcement and highway officials urge anyone wanting to talk or text while driving to pull off the roadway to a safe location.

Also, drivers should put their phone away before getting behind the wheel and let family, friends and co-workers know you won’t respond to texts when driving.

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