DEKALB (AP) – Jacob Alvarez knows he’ll be tempted to text and drive as soon as he gets his license this summer.
“Everyone at some point in their life texts and drives,” Alvarez said. “I’ve never seen my friends text while driving, but I know they do it, because everyone does.”
Driving instructors at DeKalb High are spreading the message about the dangers of texting and driving. Last year, they won a $25,000 grant through the Celebrate My Drive campaign to raise awareness about teen driving safety. This year, an Illinois State Police state trooper and the school resource officer gave talks telling students about the dangers.
At Genoa-Kingston School District 424, Superintendent Joe Burgess said he expects the curriculum to focus more on having students tell their peers not to text and drive because teenagers are more likely to listen to other teenagers rather than adults.
“That helps immensely,” Burgess said. “Kids [will] have the courage to stand up to their peers and say, ‘Hey put it away. I’m in here, too.’”
It is illegal for anyone in Illinois to send text messages while driving. Hands-free devices are required when using a phone, but drivers can’t use their phones at all while driving until they are 18 years old.
Even so, the National Safety Council estimates about 1 in 4 traffic crashes, or about 1.3 million a year, were linked to drivers texting or talking on cellphones in 2010.
“A person just passed us in a no-passing zone on Dresser Road talking on their phone,” said Tim Holt, DeKalb driving instructor, just after a driving lesson with a student. “We see people all the time on their phones.”
An entire chapter of DeKalb’s driver’s education textbook is dedicated to distracted driving. Driving instructor John Cordes said he also shows students eye-opening videos about texting and driving.
“It can be nothing but bad, if you’re texting and driving,” Cordes said. “If you get away with it your first time, you’re going to think you can do it again. Eventually, it’s going to catch up to you.”