The car came out of nowhere, crashing into Zander Bernard’s vehicle as the Park Vista High School sophomore glanced down to read a text message.
Students Richelle Banks and Chelsi Spirn, both 18, also crashed their cars while trying to read a text on their smartphones.
The students were among a group of about 50 who took part in a simulated driving experience at their school Tuesday as part of AT&T’s “Txting & Drivng … It Can Wait” public awareness campaign.
Initiated in 2009, the campaign is designed to educate the public — especially teens — on the dangers of texting and driving.
According to the National Safety Council, more than 100,000 crashes a year involve drivers who are texting, often resulting in injuries and deaths.
“Our goal is to get as many students to commit not to text and drive,” said Griffin Hagler, a representative with the It Can Wait campaign.
Through social media, public service announcements, commercials and visits to school campuses, the campaign aims to spread the message that reading text messages, email, websites or videos are not worth the risk of endangering lives.
More than 1.3 million people have made a pledge not to text and drive through the campaign’s website at www.itcanwait.com, including Park Vista students who drove the car simulator Tuesday.
The simulator, which has traveled to more than 200 locations throughout the country during the past year, is a video game driving setup with a chair, steering wheel, pedals and monitor.
Participants experience a 3D driving simulation involving a city and realistic texts that appear on a smartphone attached to the chair. Drivers navigating the 8-block course must adhere to all traffic laws — including speed, red lights and stop signs — while texting.
Most were unable to do so.
“It was challenging,” said Spirn, a junior who has been driving for three years. “Definitely you shouldn’t be texting and driving because of all the other things going on around you.”
“It was really difficult,” added Bernard, 16, and a licensed driver. “I didn’t see the car coming at me.”
State Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who joined 38 other senators Thursday in voting to approve a ban on texting while driving, visited Park Vista Tuesday to support the It Can Wait campaign.
“The kids can see exactly what happens when they use that handheld device and think they can drive at the same time,” she said.