MERRILLVILLE | Merrillville High School students had an opportunity to participate in a simulation focusing on the dangers of texting while driving.
AT&T, one of the wireless service providers leading the no-texting-while-driving push, partnered with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, to bring a hands-on driving simulator to Merrillville High School to demonstrate the dangers of being distracted by texting behind the wheel.
The event held Thursday, the Drive 4 Pledges Day, focused on getting individuals involved in taking the pledge to never text and drive, and encouraging others in the community to do the same.
The simulator experience allows students to sit in a stationary car that is connected to sensors enabling the driver to use the steering wheel and pedals. The driver then navigates a virtual road course while being asked to send and receive text messages in real time on a mobile device.
Merrillville Superintendent Mark Sperling said it's important to educate young drivers to practice safe driving habits from the time they first get behind the wheel so they can avoid putting themselves and others at risk.
"I've learned from recent studies that drivers who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash; that's the reason it's so important to be proactive in this area," he said.
Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, told students that texting while driving and texting while walking are dangerous.
Merrillville Principal Mike Krutz urged students to spread the word to their families, friends and communities to never text and drive.
Merrillville senior David Osorio, 17, said he does text while driving.
"I know we're getting lots of pressure not to text," he said. "Sometimes, I'll text my friends to let them know I'm on my way. I probably should do it before I get into the car. This does make me think about not texting and driving."
Merrillville senior Lauren Smith, 18, who just got her license in June said she does not text and drive. "It's not worth getting into an accident. The slogan is 'It can wait,' and that's true. It really can wait," she said.