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October 14, 2012

Texting and driving dangers outlined to students

HOLLY POND — State Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, had a wake up call in February while on his way home from Hanceville.

Bussman was doing exactly what he admitted to always doing while driving, and what many teenagers and their parents have grown accustom to doing in this day and age as well.

Texting and driving.

“When I looked up, I was almost in the ditch,” Bussman said. “All four wheels were off the road, and I was lucky. I was lucky it wasn’t raining. It was dry. If it would have been raining, I would have been in the ditch.”

Bussman was one of several speakers during a student assembly at Holly Pond High School that included Sheriff Mike Rainey, Holly Pond mayor Herman Nail and AT&T Alabama Regional Director Dave Hargrove. The assembly was part of the “It Can Wait” campaign sponsored by AT&T. The presentation included updated statistics on the hazards of texting while driving, a showing of a mini-documentary called “It Can Wait” featuring friends and family members of those affected by the dangers of texting while driving, and a summary of the new statewide ban on texting while driving.

“That’s not a video I want to watch every day,” Bussman said. “It’s something I don’t want to deal with at my house, and I can tell you that up until last year when we passed this law, I was as guilty as anyone of texting and driving.”

According to Hargrove, 97 percent of people know it’s dangerous to text while driving, but 43 percent do it anyway.

“First of all, you shouldn’t do it at all,” he said. “But secondly, you shouldn’t do it while at a stop light or intersection. We want people to know it’s just as unacceptable to text and drive as it is to drive drunk or to drive under the influence of drugs.”

Alabama became the 38th state to sign a law in to place making texting and driving an offense.  Gov. Robert Bentley signed the law into effect on Aug. 1.

“It was brought up about four or five years in a row,” Bussman said. “And the argument was that the government was too involved in our lives, but it’s come to a point where important things rise to a certain level, and this is the main reason this law was passed.”

The law prohibits reading, writing, or sending a text based communication while operating a vehicle. A first time offense has a $25 fine. A $50 fine comes with the second offense, and a $75 fine for a third time.  Two points are also put on the driver’s record for each offense.

“We didn’t pass this law to make a big difference on the sheriff and the state troopers to pull people over,” Bussman said. “We did it because it’s important you understand the dangers. We’re losing too many kids already in traffic accidents, and we don’t need to lose more because they’re texting and driving.”

Holly Pond High School Senior Gunter Morris said the presentation opened his eyes to just how serious the dangers can be.

“It shows it’s more real that what you think,” Morris said. “It shows tragedies can occur from a message someone sends to you or from a message you send to them. We should all follow the message of the video for the safety of ourselves.”

Rainey took AT&T’s pledge and encouraged the students at Holly Pond to do the same.

“No text message, email, website, or video is worth the risk of endangering my life or any other life on the road,” Rainey said. “I have pledged to never text and drive and I will take action to educate others of the dangers of texting while driving. No text is worth the risk, it can wait. I’m asking each and everyone of you to do your part. Please don’t text and drive.”

* Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext 225, or by email at agraves@cullmantimes.com

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