Jackson High will be one of 30 stops for anti-texting campaign

  • By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor
  • Tuesday, December 29, 2009 8:27pm

Henry M. Jackson High School in south Everett is scheduled to be one of 30 stops during Allstate Auto Insurance’s national campaign to persuade teens to stop texting while driving.

These students are not being singled out for breaking the law, but the results of an Allstate study released this summer shows teens in the Seattle-Tacoma area practice distracting habits while driving.

Allstate Auto Insurance kicked off its “Ex to the text” campaign in November. The national campaign involves stops in 30 cities to encourage teenagers to pledge to not send text messages while they are driving.

In May 2007, Washington became the first state to ban text messaging while driving. After the law went into effect in 2008, collisions where drivers were distracted by telecommunications devices dropped. In 2008, there were 827 collisions where drivers “operated a handheld telecommunications device” that was a contributing factor in the crash, compared to 1,118 in 2007 and 1,246 in 2006, according to AAA.

Jackson High School was supposed to be one of the stops earlier this month and was scheduled as one of two stops in the Northwest. The other was Portland, Ore.

The event, scheduled for Dec. 10, was cancelled, but both groups are planning to reschedule the event for early January.

In July, Allstate released the results of the survey, “The State of Teen Driving 2009 Regional Survey Highlights,” which focused on the Seattle-Tacoma area. The survey highlighted driving influences, attitudes and willingness to speak up if passengers felt uncomfortable. Distractions other than text messaging while driving included parents, drinking, speeding and riding with a driver that had been drinking. More than 200 online surveys were conducted among teens aged 15 to 17.

Parents had the most influence on teen driving habits, for 64 percent of boys and 85 percent of girls, followed by the police. But 36 percent of teens said having their parents ride in the car is the most distracting factor while they are driving. The majority of teens think riding with a seat belt is important, with 11 percent disagreeing. But 59 percent and 46 percent of boys and girls, respectively, would probably speak up if the driver made them feel unsafe.

Kathy Powell, an Allstate spokeswoman, said the winter holidays are an ideal time to have the campaign as it is the second deadliest time of year for car accidents following summer.

Some teens feel they are invincible while they are on school breaks and going to parties, Powell said.

“It’s a good reminder to be safe,” she said.

Allstate is not alone in campaigning against reckless driving habits.

Earlier this year, AAA kicked off its own campaign to discourage drivers from text messaging. The campaign aims to pass texting-while-driving bans in all 50 states by 2013.

“The new technologies that help us multitask in our everyday lives and increasingly popular social media sites present a hard-to-resist distraction,” said Robert L. Darbelnet, national AAA president, in a press release. “Enacting texting bans for drivers in all 50 states can halt the spread of this dangerous practice among motorists nationwide, and is a key legislative priority for AAA in state capitols.”

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