People do it all the time. They slip one hand around the wheel and answer the phone with the other. They drop down the mirror on their visor to check their teeth, or they reach across the car to fish through a bag in the passenger seat.
Most drivers understand texting while driving isn’t safe.
But it’s not the only way to drive distractedly.
The Hall County School District’s board of education wants to remind its students and their families to drive safely, and the board has challenged students to educate themselves and others on the subject.
Chairman Nath Morris came up with the idea to challenge high school students to create 60-second to 90-second videos detailing the dangers of driving distractedly, according to Superintendent Will Schofield.
Schofield said the board “kicked around the idea” for a while, until the state released updated driving statistics with the start of the new year.
“Monday I believe the state announced that driving fatalities in the state went up 17 percent last year, and that really caught my attention,” Schofield said. “I already knew the answer, but the state went on to say the cause for it is distracted driving.”
The purpose of the video challenge is not only to educate students, but to have them educate their families and the community.
“It appears — not only among young people, but with people of all ages — we have this explosion of distracted driving going on involving people using their cellphones while driving,” Schofield said. “So we said, ‘We’ve got some amazing high school students. Who better to create some messages and get the word out?’”
Those students whose videos “have the right message and are high-quality” can win a $100 prize and have their video published on the school district’s website. There is no time frame for students to submit videos, and the district hopes the project might become ongoing.
Schofield said he also hopes the project could lead to partnerships with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and companies like AT&T, who “have said they’d love to partner in any way they possibly could.”
AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign promotes no texting while driving through powerful commercials and pledge requests. Recent AT&T research shows four out of every 10 smartphone users check social media while driving, according to the campaign website. Almost three in 10 surf the internet.
Schofield compared the need for further education about distracted driving to the education nearly 50 years ago about the dangers of smoking.
He said the history of the smoking cessation through the U.S. started with education in the schools, and students took the information home to their families.
“Here we are 50 years later, and the number of people who smoke and use tobacco is down significantly,” he said. “It’s important to remember it’s the school-age generation that led that movement. I’ve got to believe it’s the school-age children that can lead this movement too, in terms of ending our driving habits that are less than perfect.”