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Students hope for top prize in safe driving competition
East Hall project focuses on dangers of texting while driving
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Vote for East Hall High School’s entry in the Act Out Loud contest, which encourages teens to drive safely.

East Hall High School students are vying for $10,000, all while helping others learn the dangers of texting while driving.

Five members of Students Against Destructive Decisions developed a grant proposal for the national Act Out Loud contest, which encourages students to fight against all types of distracted driving. The students then partnered with 11Alive’s Great Hang Up project and gathered more than 600 commitments from their peers to hang up the phone and not text while driving.

“I heard about the 11Alive project from a co-worker at the school, and we thought we should get the kids involved somehow,” said Heather Barrett, an East Hall teacher and SADD adviser. “I e-mailed them, and it all kind of fell in place. Then from there, it snowballed with Act Out Loud.”

East Hall is now one among 20 finalists nationwide looking for votes by Friday to win the top prize.

“If we win the money, we want to take our student leaders to Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers there about doing a nationwide bill banning texting and driving,” Barrett said. The group also wants to produce a peer-to-peer video to take to schools.

East Hall’s effort is especially relevant as lawmakers in Georgia anticipate Gov. Sonny Perdue signing bills against texting, checking e-mail and using the Internet behind the wheel. Under one bill, drivers of any age will get a point on their driver’s license and face a $150 fine for texting while driving. In another bill, teens will face similar penalties for talking and texting while driving. Both could go into effect on July 1.

“We’ve done a lot to get this out there,” said Joey Leonard, a junior at East Hall and next year’s SADD president. “I had heard of SADD but didn’t think about getting involved until I got into a wreck where I was texting and hit someone.”

Leonard was texting a friend while driving and said, although he was “looking up and looking down” from the phone, the car in front of him stopped sooner than he thought it would.

“It was pouring rain, and I slid into them and forced them into the median because I hit them so hard,” he said. “No one was hurt, but it tore up my car. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could use my story to show kids these accidents are really happening.”

As the group moves forward, members have their fingers crossed for Friday’s results.

“We don’t know where we’re at on the list, but hopefully we’re moving up the ranks,” Barrett said.

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