Simulation Drives Home the Dangers of Texting While Driving
By Nicole Janet, Staff Writer; March 18-24, 2011
Plymouth Whitemarsh High School students learned the dangers firsthand of texting while driving March 11.
Louisa Chen, a personal injury attorney with the Conshohocken office of the White and Williams law firm, travels to high schools to teach teens about the dangers of texting while driving.
"We represent many clients that have been injured by teens that were texting while driving," Chen said. "We can see how it directly affects the kids. They need to be educated about it."
According to Chen, many times the people who cause the accidents that injure her clients are "good kids." "We don't want to see kids on the other side of these things," she said. "We just want to try to prevent these accidents because they are preventable."
On March 11, Chen worked with the Street Safe Driving Academy to bring a simulator to the high school. Student volunteers were asked to drive the car and attempt to either send or receive a text message. The student volunteers' experience in the simulation was taped for a public service announcement to be presented to the rest of the high school March 21.
"If they hit something during the simulation, it sets something off in them," Chen said. "If they did text while driving before, they say they wouldn't do it again after the simulation."
Madi Levin, a Plymouth Whitemarsh junior who participated in the simulation, said she has texted while driving before.
Photo by NICOLE JENET @ THE COLONIAL
"It was very difficult," Levin said of the simulation in which she crashed while trying to read a text message. "I don't do it anymore, but now that I've done this I won't text while driving again."
Malissa Oricchio, a freshman, also crashed in the simulation while attempting to send a text message. "It was very easy when I wasn't texting, but it was hard to try to drive and look down at my phone," Oricchio said afterward, "I never thought texting while driving was a big deal, but I don't do it now."
"Texting while driving is a serious problem for society right now," Whitemarsh Township community policing Sgt. Francis Wheatley said.
"People think it's OK to text and drive at the same time, but some say it's even worse than a DUI. It's a basic safety issue. It's important to teach them about it."
According to Wheatley, a $2,000.00 Project Ignition grant was secured from State Farm for a pledge campaign in the high school. Students pledge to not text while driving, and they receive a bracelet to wear as a reminder of that pledge, Wheatley said.
"We're just hoping to educate the teens as lawyers in the field that see this happen often," Chen said. Her firm has seen a rise in the number of texting-related accidents, she said.
"You can be the greatest kid and cause an accident, and it can affect the rest of your life," she said.