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Eastside students learn ‘it can wait’
Texting While Driving
AT&T and Rep. Dave Belton bring a special virtual reality simulator to Eastside High School to show students the dangers of texting while driving. - photo by Jackie Gutknecht

COVINGTON, Ga. - In partnership with AT&T, state Rep. Dave Belton hosted a special virtual reality simulator highlighting the dangers of distracted driving at Eastside High School on Tuesday.

Belton said when he previously served on the Morgan County Board of Education, a Morgan County teenager, Caleb Sorohan, died in a car accident while texting and driving in 2009. Belton, along with Sorohan’s sister and other Morgan County students, then went to the Capitol and lobbied to pass a texting-while-driving law, titled “Caleb’s law.”

It Can Wait

“It’s kind of like seatbelts. When I was young, no one wore seatbelts and now everyone does it,” Belton, R-Buckhead, said. “This is something that has got to get ingrained in our psychology: If you are driving you need to put the phone down because it’s killing a lot of people.”

Mike Stevenson, with AT&T, said statistically texting while driving and distracted driving is worse than drunken driving.

“When you’re driving impaired or over the limit, you’re still I guess technically trying to focus on the road,” he said. “But when your face is in the phone you’re not looking anywhere other than that screen. Technically you’re blind driving.”

He said, if a vehicle is traveling at 55 mph and the driver takes two to three seconds to look at a phone, it has traveled the distance of a football field without the driver looking at the road.

After going through the virtual reality simulator, which allows students to get a behind-the-wheel look at distracted driving, students are asked to sign a Text Free Driving Pledge, promising to not text while driving.  

“I think the students understand that this is a severe issue and after doing the 360-simulation, that this is real, you know, it can happen,” Stevenson said. “Our goal for them is to realize that it is a big issue and also share with their family and friends to get the message out to the public.”

Eastside Principal Jeff Cher said there are nearly 300 students at Eastside who drive themselves to school.

“It’s made a real positive impact on our kids,” he said. “They were unsure about it at first, but then as they realized what was going on, it’s kind of a shocking thing.”

Belton said it is important to target new drivers before they develop the habit of texting while driving.