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Teen revs up no texting while driving campaign
The Capital Times

Sun Prairie High School student Maggie Heck has started a marketing campaign at her school to get students and teachers to sign a pledge to make their cars “no-texting zones.”

Texting behind the wheel isn’t safe or legal but that doesn’t stop plenty of drivers from doing it anyway. Sun Prairie High School student Maggie Heck is out to change that with a marketing campaign at her school to get students and teachers to sign a pledge to make their cars “no-texting zones.”

“Lots of us in high school think we’re good enough texters or good enough drivers to get away with it. Or we think something bad can never happen to us. But you can change your whole life in really horrible ways in just a couple of seconds,” says Heck, a junior.
Heck put together the safety program through her school’s DECA group, a high school club for students interested in business and marketing. Its aim is to make young drivers more aware of the dangers of texting while driving, and help them become willing to do something about it.

“I saw some video from YouTube, including segments from ‘Oprah’ and ‘Dr. Phil’ that really showed how fast things happen when you’re driving and not paying attention to the road. It really had an impact on me, and so I wanted to do something to wake people up about what can happen when you’re texting and driving,” Heck explains. (AT&T has also released a documentary portraying how lives are changed by accidents caused by texting while driving.)

Although Wisconsin’s law banning texting while driving went into effect in December, Heck acknowledges that teens may still find it hard to resist texting behind the wheel. “It’s stupid, but people do it anyway,” she says.

As part of the marketing program Heck helped develop, Sun Prairie High School students and teachers had conversations in homeroom about Wisconsin’s new law and current research that shows drivers who are texting are as impaired as drivers who have been drinking. They also saw some of the video footage that moved Heck to take action. And then they were asked to sign the pledge to make their own cars text-free zones.

“People were pretty emotional about it, and the response has been awesome. Lots of people have pledged not to text and drive in the name of someone else, someone they love,” Heck says. She says Sun Prairie’s DECA adviser took the no texting in the car pledge for her new baby.

At Heck’s high school, between 250 and 300 people signed a large poster near the school cafeteria, making a commitment to keep their cars text-free. In return for their promise, they received a car window cling graphic with the message “I’M A SMART DRIVER — NO TEXTING ZONE,” paid for by Smart Motors, the local auto dealership Heck approached as a partner for the project. The pun works nicely as a promotion for the dealership as well.

Blane Einbeck, director of marketing for Smart, says he has signed the pledge himself. “Maggie’s efforts, along with the new law, made me change the way I do things while I’m driving,” he says. “I used to text in the car because it seemed efficient. With 90 percent of my texts business-related, I figured I could work and drive at the same time.”

Einbeck says Smart Motors is sponsoring a handful of area high school basketball games in Verona, Oregon and Madison in January and February, and he plans to take the window clings and posters to the games to draw attention to the no-texting-while-driving pledge.
And he hopes other districts are willing to support the program Heck championed in Sun Prairie.

“I talked about this with my nephews and nieces who are in that 12- to 20-year-old age range and they see it as a no-brainer, safety wise,” he notes. “Actually, it may be harder for adults. Those incoming messages can kind of take over your life. I’m realizing it’s not worth endangering someone else or yourself. Those texts can wait.”

Heck and members of her marketing club plan to take their campaign to additional schools throughout the Sun Prairie district in 2011.


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