Why not text? Texter tells story of pain, sorrow
On July 1, 2009, the state of Utah formally banned motorists from text messaging while driving. Many felt the ban was overdue, because many deaths have been the result of distracted drivers. Yet the problem still persists. However, in an effort to educate young drivers, the state highway patrol and local high schools invited Reggie Shaw to speak on Nov. 3.
Mr. Shaw was responsible for the deaths of two men in 2006 after he clipped a car which crashed into a truck. He was text messaging on his cell phone. Although his sentence was mild by today's standards, he continues to travel the country to tell his story even after his community service was fulfilled.
"I don't know what the (text) message was about, or what it said, but the result was (taking) two people's lives," said Mr. Shaw, speaking to high school students at the Pinnacle Academy. "I did get the last light sentence of 30 days in jail, but did I get a light sentence? I can't say, but if I could have punished myself, then, yes, but I have to live with this every day."
By most studies, using a cell phone to talk while driving equates to the legal limit of drunkenness at .08. During texting, the impairment level rockets to 160. Another alarming fact is that, in Utah, while a DUI is issued every three hours, a distraction resulting from something like cell phone use occurs every hour and a half.
"At first, I didn't think it (the presentation) would affect me. But when you see how many wrecks have happened and just hearing (Reggie's story), it was mind blowing," said Haley Burnes, a senior at Pinnacle high school .
While the presentation was aimed at high school students, nearly everyone involved agreed that adults also need to be educated about the dangers of distracted driving.
"It's a much needed service, not only for students, but to adults as well," said Kery Welch, a social worker.
Overall, the presentation made a big impact on the students at Pinnacle. While the message was clear, officials at the school and law enforcement alike can only hope that it makes a difference.
"Reggie's story had an impact on me, that's why I've brought it down and I hope it will have an impact on the students as well." said Trooper Bradley Shaw, public information and safety officer for Utah's region nine.