“It’s a good reminder that life is more important than anything on my phone.”
It's important to put down the phone and focus on the road, and many high school and college students have pledged to do just that.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer visited Elyria Christian School Jan. 19 to congratulate the school's junior class for 100 percent participation in the statewide "Don't Text #JustDrive" campaign. This initiative, started in 2016, encouraged Kansans, particularly college students and alumni, to pledge to eliminate distractions, such as texting, while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
“Your leadership has caused our department to partner with the State Board of Education in bringing the pledge campaign to Kansas high schools," Selzer said.
An employee at Elyria Christian School informed the Kansas Insurance Department that every member of the junior class had pledged to eliminate driving distractions. The department does not track which schools’ pledge-takers attend, so school-level data is not available.
“Distracted driving is going up in the country and people are dying. Also, seat belt use is a problem. So, buckle up and don’t pick up your phones,” Selzer urged.
It's a message students have taken to heart.
“I decided to not text and drive because I don’t want die and make my family go through that," said senior Abbey Rush.
Don't Text, #JustDrive started Sept. 19, 2016 as an intercollegiate competition. Those who pledged to get rid of distractions while driving could cast a vote for one of seven participating colleges. Colleges, in turn, competed to see which could garner the most pledges as a percentage of enrolled students.
The competitive aspect ended Dec. 22, 2016, but Lacey Kennett, assistant to the Kansas Insurance Commissioner, said it's never too late to focus on the road.
"We had a really good turnout. We ended up with a total of 33,517 pledges"' Kennett said. "That's the equivalent of about one-third of the student body population. Not all of those are students, but we're still excited to see that number. And even though the competition is over, people can still take the pledge."
Emporia State University received the most votes as a percentage of its student body, with 3,749 pledges, or the equivalent of 63.68 percent of the student body. Other universities received a number of pledges ranging from 19 percent to 60 percent of student body equivalent.
The campaign appears to have yielded positive results. The Kansas Department of Transportation observed distracted driving habits in the cities in which participating schools are located, both before and after the campaign. According to the report, the number of drivers texting while driving dropped 2.7 percent after the campaign, and overall, distracted driving dropped 3.2 percent.
While the McPherson Police Department doesn't regularly track distracted driving statistics, McPherson Police Lt. Stan Neufeld said any reduction in distraction can lead to a reduction in accidents.
"All accidents are caused by distracted driving in one form or another, whether it's texting or thinking about plans you have for later," he said. "Focus on what's in front of your bumper."
It's advice Elyria senior Madilynn Allen intends to follow
“It’s a good reminder that life is more important than anything on my phone,” she said.