Students at Winston Park K-8 Center in Kendale Lakes are sending a message to their community: Put the phone down while driving.
On May 12, art teacher Glenn Terry had his 600 elementary and middle school students begin a project in which they created posters and safety bracelets to remind their parents and others about the dangers of distracted driving.
Terry, who has been teaching for 25 years and has been the art teacher at Winston Park for 11, believes that people driving while texting or talking on their phones is one of the most overlooked dangers in society.
“In the big picture, people are getting more addicted to cell phones,” said Terry, 67. “To me, that’s like putting a TV on the dashboard.”
Terry, who does not own a cell phone, felt it was necessary to make people more conscious of this issue after he read statistics proving how dangerous driving while using a cell phone can be.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices at any given daylight moment across the country. NHTSA also says 10 percent of drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the accident.
A person driving while using the phone may be just as dangerous as a drunk driver.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 1997, which showed that talking on the cell phone while driving is the equivalent of a person operating a vehicle with a 0.10 percent blood alcohol level.
Terry hopes that his students will learn from their projects and help change the pattern of careless driving in future generations.
“I mean, we went through all of this with seat belts years ago,” he said. “People still don’t want to wear helmets when they ride their motorcycles. Being safe just isn’t as important to people.”
Terry’s students plan on giving the posters they make to their parents, as well as posting them in public places.
One of Terry’s fourth-grade students, Yader Gonzalez, who drew a car crashing into a tree while the driver was using a cell phone, said that driving distracted can make the difference between life and death.
“It can save your life if you don’t use it,” said Yader, 10. “This is something people should just know.”
His father Luis Gonzalez tries to be an example for his son.
“I ride a motorcycle, and I see it every day,” Gonzalez said. “People die in the streets because they’re paying more attention to their phone and all this technology instead of what’s ahead.”
Florida passed a law in October, which made texting while driving illegal, however; a driver has to be pulled over for a separate offense for it to be enforced.