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Oak Creek teens urge others to stop texting behind the wheel

Student group organizes state's first summit on topic

May 1, 2012

Oak Creek - Oak Creek High School students are driving home an important message: Don't text behind the wheel.

The students - seniors Didi Al-Zubeidi and Alicia Compton and sophomore Alex Schmidt - organized the first state summit on the dangers of texting while driving. It drew about 800 teenagers from the across the state.

The summit was held April 24 in Wisconsin Dells, and the Wisconsin State Patrol, Wisconsin Family Career and Community Leaders of America and AT&T Wisconsin participated in the daylong event.

The teen-led gathering grew out of the students' participation last October in the National Teen Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C. That summit, hosted by AT&T and the National Organizations for Youth Safety, charged the teens with organizing a state event that focused on some aspect of distracted driving, said Al-Zubeidi, 18, of Milwaukee.

"We picked texting and driving because it's the most common," said Compton, 18, of Oak Creek. "I see it very often. I know it's a huge problem in the U.S., especially among teens."

Education emphasized

Schmidt cited a frequently referenced statistic about texting and driving.

"You're 23 times more likely to get involved in an accident by texting and driving," the 16-year-old Oak Creek resident said.

To emphasize the dangers of texting and driving, the teens showed at the summit the AT&T documentary "The Last Text," real-life stories of people's whose lives changed forever because of texting and driving. They also created an obstacle course using a tricycle in which teens took turns trying to ride and text.

"Very few made it through the entire course," Al-Zubeidi said.

The summit also featured a presentation on the hazards of distracted driving by the Wisconsin State Patrol and a new free AT&T app called DriveMode that helps reduce the temptation to text and drive by sending auto-reply messages to incoming texts, notifying the sender that the user is driving and will respond when it is safe.

Promise of change

Students were told about Wisconsin's law against texting and driving and asked to sign a pledge vowing not to text and drive.

"We got a lot of signatures," said Compton, guessing that 200 signed on.

Al-Zubeidi said she thinks the summit was a success.

"Afterward, a couple came up and said this really inspired them," she said.

It has changed the organizers' habits, too.

Compton said that in the past, she texted and drove "once or twice" - but no more.

"I wouldn't even think about it," she said.

Wisconsin's law

WHAT: prohibits sending an email or text message while driving

EFFECTIVE: Dec. 1, 2010

FINE: $400

ENFORCEMENT: Officers may stop and ticket drivers solely for texting and driving.

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