A dangerous trend is emerging with Waterford's and America’s youth.
Reports have shown that texting and driving is one of the most dangerous common actions a person does while in a car, with one study showing drivers were 23.2 times more likely to get into an accident than drivers paying full attention to the road. showed that more than 50 percent of state teenagers admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving.
“The school health survey findings show that many of our young drivers engage in behaviors that put them at even greater risk when they get behind the wheel,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen.
Waterford has taken steps to curb texting while driving. The town has had several programs aimed directly at that issue, while at least one other state has made texting while driving and causing an accident illegal.
“We are definitely trying to be proactive in this area,” Waterford Traffic Officer David Anderson wrote in an e-mail to Patch. “Detection and enforcement is extremely challenging with these violations so we feel a proactive approach, trying to get the information out there to the public and obtain their voluntary compliance, is a very important part of the dual approach we are taking to ensure public safety in this area.”
For the second year in a row, all Waterford High School sophomores went through the “Be Aware” program at Backus Hospital. It was "intense", according to Christine Poscich of Waterford Youth Services, who helped get Waterford into the program.
It started with students in a room, where they saw a movie with a violent and graphic car accident caused by a girl who was texting and driving. The girl was texting and hit a family, with the accident severely injuring a baby, Poscich said.
Then Backus nurses took the students outside, where they reenacted immediate emergency procedures to a car accident victim on a manikin. That included putting a breathing tube down the manikin’s throat, which smashed out its teeth.
Then the nurses took the students into an emergency room, where they showed more emergency procedures done to car accident victims. For example, they showed how they put a catheter up a man’s penis, which caused one Waterford High School student to faint, Poscich said.
After that, the nurses showed people who were in physical rehabilitation from severe injuries, then the morgue, and then showed a video of a medical examiner telling a family that their child died in a car accident. At the end, a girl who was drunk driving and killed a 4-year-old gave a speech, and that ended with the girl and most of the class getting emotional, Poscich said.
“It is really intensive and really powerful,” Poscich said. “We want to show them the dangers of distracted driving. And it can be them, not just somebody else.”
That was followed up with another program in May, where two Waterford police officers and three volunteers from Verizon Wireless went to Waterford High School during lunchtime to get students to sign a pledge to not text and drive. The students signed a banner that is now hung at the main entrance of the school and were given a thumb ring that says “text later” on it.
The push proved popular. Hundreds of students signed the banner, and while it might not guarantee they will not text and drive, at least it got them thinking about it, according to Waterford Police Officer Marc Balestracci.
“I’m sure some students came to sign the pledge in order to get a thumb ring, or to do what other students were doing,” Balestracci wrote in an e-mail to Anderson, who forwarded it to Patch. “But hundreds of students, in our town, were talking about texting and driving. I assume the conversations continued beyond the 30-minute lunch period and may even work their way into several homes tonight.”
New Massachusetts Law
On top of those pushes, Massachusetts recently passed a law making it a crime to be texting and driving and cause an accident, according to the Associated Press. Earlier this month, Massachusetts teenager Aaron Deveau was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison after he was texting and driving and hit another car, which led to one person being killed and another getting seriously injured, according to the AP.