School tests teens' ability to text while driving - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

School tests teens' ability to text while driving

WINTER HAVEN, FL (NBC) - Many have probably heard the warnings that texting while driving can make you as impaired as drinking and driving.

Now, a Florida high school is hoping to get that message through loud and clear to its students by putting them behind the wheel with cell phones.

Put a teenagers behind the wheel of any vehicle and there are bound to be distractions. But at Winter Haven High School, teachers aimed to make a very specific point about one distraction in particular, texting while driving.

With the students in golf carts, they drove a coned course once at full attention then a second time while texting on their cell phones.

The results, in some cases, were worse than even students expected.

"It was really hard. I really don't text when I drive," said 19-year-old Charnele Sterling.  "It was really hard; I got kind of emotional because I knew it could have been somebody's life that I took. "

Instructor Roni Durrwachter coordinated the effort with Winter Haven Police and said even though this is often a tough age to get through to, she's hopeful the message is clear.

"I really hope they see, when they run over a cone, we say you just hit a pedestrian. They go off course, you're in a ditch. You know, so they hopefully will get an idea that it really cold happen to them," Durrwachter said.

It is hard to get these kids to fully appreciate the dangers. But according to a National Safety Council study, 28 percent of car crashes happen when someone is talking on their cell phone or texting while driving.

And it doesn't take any time at all to find kids who've had some frighteningly close calls from careening off the road.

"My neck was a little bit hurt because it was a full force slam. We were going the full speed limit, and it was full force slam into the fence," 16-year-old Ashley Whitley.

It's hard to say if an exercise like this will prevent future texting and driving but teachers said they have to at least drive home the point.

As part of the exercise several Winter Haven High School English classes will now have to do research papers on the dangers of texting and driving and include their personal experiences on the driving course.

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