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Texting and driving: What RU thinking?

Susan McMillan • Apr 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM

At Huron High School, art teacher Patty Vanbarg's students readily admit to texting while driving -- just not in Huron, where it's illegal.

A study Vanbarg is compiling reveals much of the same.

"Their answers were very contradictory with each other," Vanbarg said. "They said it's definitely a bad thing and it's very distracting, but 'Yes I do it, yes my friends do it and yes my parents do it."

Vanbarg, other school employees and Huron police have arranged an entire week of activities to raise awareness and dissuade students from driving distracted.

The art students made posters to display at local businesses.

Students will be able to take pledges at lunch -- promising not to text and drive -- and try a virtual simulator Friday to show them just how their reactions times are affected when they're texting and driving.

An assembly Thursday will feature a Huron graduate who was injured in a crash in which the other driver was texting, as well as senior McKenzie Davis, who was in a crash caused by her own texting.

Davis certainly hasn't been the only student injured in a texting-related crash, but many of the students still seem to think they're capable of texting and driving.

One girl told Vanbarg she has her phone's keyboard memorized so she doesn't have to take her eyes off the road to text.

"They're so used to multitasking, and they really don't see an issue with it," Vanbarg said.

All drivers are banned from texting within city limits, but Huron police are taking their message to the school because teens are particularly attached to their phones, Huron police Chief John Majoy said.

"They're also inexperienced drivers," he said. "They've been driving a year, maybe two, or less."

Since the texting ban took effect about a year ago, Huron police have handed out no citations and just one warning.

"That's good and bad," Majoy said. "It's bad because we think it's still going on."

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