Don't Text and Drive Blog

Why (And How) Abby Whitney Is Trying To Stop Texting And Driving

Posted by Robert Edgin on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 @ 10:29 PM

We recently asked for testimonials from people who have participated in texting and driving campaigns in their schools. We received a lot of touching responses from people all across the country. Abby's was not only touching, it was inspirational. It moved us. It motivated us. Here is Abby's story:

"I wanted to tell you about the campaign that we started at our school. It all began on December 30, 2011. I lost my 18 year old cousin in a texting and driving accident. She had everything going for her; was a part of NHS, lead scorer on her varsity basketball team, and was accepted into Indiana University where she was scheduled to start this week. On that Friday evening, she was taking a friend home after a day of shopping and she chose to read and respond to a text message. She was not wearing her seatbelt and when she lost control of the minivan she was driving, she was ejected out of the front windshield and was pronounced dead at the scene. Our family was deeply traumatized by this accident and the loss of such a beautiful person.

As I drove home, 5.5 hours, to attend her visitation and funeral, I witnessed many people texting and driving. Each person I saw sparked an anger and frustration and I felt determined to do something about it. Fortunately, I am a teacher at a K-12 public school and knew I had access to the perfect audience. When I returned to school, I was approached by my principal and several teachers who wanted me to tell my family's story to the highschool student body. This is EXACTLY what I wanted.

A week later, while the pain was still deep, an assembly was scheduled where I told my cousin's story. The reaction and response was larger than I had ever anticipated. I had students coming up to me afterwards with tears streaming down their face. I had one student who said to me that texting and driving was something she had always done but never had anything to connect it to. She promised me, on that afternoon, that she would never do it again. I knew that my determination couldn't end on that afternoon. I knew that my family had been too greatly impacted for it to end with that presentation.

After I found out that my cousin's school had ordered thumb bands from your company, I decided to place my own order for the students and faculty at my school. A club at school approached me about wanting to help finance the order and we ordered 500 thumb bands. At that point we were unsure of how we would distribute those thumb bands. Several weeks passed and a plan came together. We entered a contest through Toyota and Discovery Education and came up with a distracted driving campagin. In March, we held another assembly. We presented our students with a pledge that they could sign during lunch that day. The pledge card was geared towards drivers, but on the reverse side were conversation starters. The conversation starters were ways that nondrivers could ask a driver (friend, parent, etc) to put their phone away while they are driving in the car. Each student that signed the pledge received a thumb band. During the assembly we also provided students with information on apps for their phones that could be downloaded to prevent texting while driving.

We ended the assembly with a video message from my cousin's friends. The video reiterated the loss of their friend and how the impact of losing someone you love can be lasting. We ended up coming in second place in the Toyota Teen Driver Contest.

We were awarded with a driving simulator and cash prize, worth a total of over $18,000. With our award, our campaign has gotten even stronger. We have bought wrist bands and lawn signs that help promote our campaign. We set up a campaign booth at a local festival, where we presented our information and sold lawn signs to the public. In June, we were able to offer one of our high school seniors a scholarship in my cousin's honor. Our campaign has taken on a tremendous speed and urgency and I can't believe how far it has come. Now that we have our driving simulator, I am eager to continue spreading awareness and encouraging drivers, young and old, to put their phones away, while behind the wheel. No text is worth your life"

Thank you to Abby, and to everyone else out there working to make a difference and save the lives of teen drivers all across North America. Keep up the good work!

Tags: don't text and drive, no texting while driving, texting and driving accidents, texting thumb bands, teens texting and driving, teen texting and driving accident, texting and driving awareness