Students kick off pledge campaign for "No Phone Zone"Apr 20, 2010
Sending text messages and even talking on cell phones while driving can be a potentially lethal combination. Yet, most young drivers will admit they engage in the activities on a regular basis. That's why Miami University students will be asking their peers to sign a pledge to stop using their phones while driving.
Miami’s Mobile Health Unit peer educators and students in the kinesiology and health class, Contemporary Issues in Men’s Health, are organizing the pledge drive that begins at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 21, on Miami’s Hamilton campus during the Spring Fling Festival. The Mobile Health Unit will be parked in the circle in front of Rentschler Hall until 2 p.m. The pledge drive will continue at various locations on the Oxford campus through April 30, which coincides with National No Phone Zone Day on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Winfrey started the campaign in January to collect pledges to not text or talk on the phone while driving.
Miami junior Timothy Chasteen, a physical education and health education double major, is already on board.
“I once wanted to see what this driving while texting rage was all about, so I tried it,” Chasteen recalled. “Every time I would look up from the message I was creating, I’d notice that my car miraculously had made it at least a third of the way into another lane. Long story short, my texting while driving career was short lived.”
Miami’s goal is to have five percent or 800 students sign the pledge, but only if they’ll honor it.
“Life is worth more than a text or a phone call; that’s the message we want to relate to our students,” said Reginald Fennell, professor of kinesiology and health. “This isn’t a contest to see how many pledge cards we get. We want students to take the pledge seriously.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for people between 16 and 20, accounting for more than 5,000 deaths each year. Andrew Delzoppo, a junior health studies major, knows the dangers of distracted driving but admits it’s a hard habit to break.
“I have had some close calls while texting and driving, such as nearly going off the road and veering into the rumble strips on freeways, but I still do it,” Delzoppo said. “I also talk on the phone while driving, which increases directly with the duration of the drive, because it saves me from falling asleep behind the wheel and causing potentially catastrophic problems.”
The pledge drive hopes to reach students like Delzoppo. Students will be given a postcard with a message on one side about the Mobile Health Unit and the other side will feature a text message or story written by fellow students, designed to show how connected their generation is to phones and technology.
“We may not get five percent of our students to take the pledge,” Fennell said. “The goal is to start conversations about this problem, so if we only get 200 students to sign the pledge, yet talk with 2,000 students about the dangers, we’re making an impact.”