Hundreds of Mitchell High School juniors and seniors will never forget last Thursday when alumnus and NBA great Thaddeus Young came home bearing spectacular gifts and a life-saving message: "Texting & Driving...It Can Wait."
"Thaddeus laid some texting-while-driving facts on the kids," said Chuck Thomas III, AT&T's regional director of External and Legislative Affairs. "It was all part of our 'Texting & Driving...It Can Wait' national campaign to make our streets safer. State Sen. Reginald Tate could not make it to the school because of business in Nashville, but State Rep. Barbara Cooper came out to support our initiative. AT&T appreciates how deeply our elected officials have always been in our public safety efforts."
Thomas and other officials, including Mayor AC Wharton Jr., law enforcement, and community representatives, staged a news conference Wednesday (Sept. 19) at City Hall on AT&T's "No Text on Board" national campaign. Tennessee is among the 39 states that have passed state laws prohibiting texting while driving. Ten of those states forbid the use of hand-held phones, mostly for teens under the age of 18.
However, driving fatalities continue to involve texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.
Young presented the football team with new helmets and the basketball team with new uniforms and shoes. He then shared some sobering statistics concerning the common practice of teens to text on their cell phones while driving.
"Texting takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds," said Young. "At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of a football field completely blind. At 65 mph, a car travels the length of a basketball court in a single second. Our message is simple: When it comes to driving, texting can wait."
According to statistics compiled by AT&T, those who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash. A recent poll of 1,200 teen drivers across the nation revealed that while 97 percent of teens know that texting and driving is dangerous, 43 percent admit to doing it. And 75 percent said it is a common practice among their friends.
"More than 500,000 teens nationwide have signed a pledge not to text and drive," said Thomas. "I believe Thad made an indelible impact on those students last Thursday. His show of genuine concern, along with those great gifts to the athletes, created a tremendous platform upon which to give his message. Many, I believe, will not only refrain from texting while driving because it's illegal, but now they understand how dangerous it can be."
When the athletes received their gifts, one of the students from the drama department yelled out from the audience that they needed money for props and costumes, said Thomas.
"Thad told that student to come see him when the assembly was over. He wrote the school a check right then and there to take care of those needs. It was truly a memorable day for Principal Kelvin Meeks and the entire school."
Sen. Tate will present Young with a proclamation in the near future for the work he has done with his Young for Youth Foundation, as well as the "No Text on Board," according to Thomas.
Other notables who have committed to joining the "It Can Wait" campaign include former NBA stars Elliott Perry and Penny Hardaway. Track Olympic medalist Rochelle Stevens and University of Memphis head basketball coach Josh Pastner also are on board.