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Officials drive home message: Don’t text behind the wheel

December 6, 2012

NORTH SMITHFIELD — Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) are bringing attention to the dangers of texting and driving with a high school awareness tour that visited North Smithfield High School Wednesday.
Joined by RIDOT State Traffic Engineer Robert Rocchio, Regional Vice President for AT&T in Rhode Island David Mancuso, State Police Major David Tikoian and school officials, the group introduced AT&T’s powerful “Txtng & Drivng…It Can Wait” campaign. After a short speaking program, students, teachers and guests viewed a documentary featuring families impacted by texting and driving accidents, and were then asked to sign a pledge to not text and drive. Roughly 250 students at North Smithfield High took the pledge.
“We are spreading the message to young drivers across Rhode Island: No text message is so important that it’s worth taking your attention off the road and risking lives in the process,” said Kilmartin, who sponsored the state’s landmark legislation in 2009 banning texting while driving in Rhode Island. “Whether turning the phone off, taking a pledge, or just making it a personal practice, the next time you think about sending or answering a text while operating a vehicle, please remember – it can wait.”
“As Principal of North Smithfield High School, I’d like to thank Attorney General Kilmartin, RIDOT, RI State Police and AT&T for sharing your time and valuable information with our students and staff,” said Robert Mezzanotte. “I am certain that our students will commit to the ‘It Can Wait’ pledge. Furthermore, I am confident that they will educate their family, friends and community on the importance of driving safely.”
Throughout the school year, Kilmartin and RIDOT will bring the public awareness campaign to area high schools. Interested parties are encouraged to follow the lead of the North Smithfield High School students and go to www.itcanwait.com and take a no-texting-and-driving pledge, and then share their promise with others via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook.
The next stop on the don’t text and drive awareness tour is scheduled for Wednesday, December 12 at Westerly High School. Schools who are interested in participating should contact the Office of Attorney General at 401-274-4400 ext 2334.
A recent AT&T survey1 found that 97 percent of teens say they know that texting is dangerous.
The survey also found:
· 75 percent of teens surveyed say that texting while driving is “common” among their friends;
· Almost all teens (89 percent) expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less;
· And 77 percent of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.
Rhode Island State Police Colonel and Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety Steven G. O’Donnell added, "Distracted Drivers are a serious problem on our roadways. As the enforcement arm of this campaign, we are pleased to join Attorney General Kilmartin, DOT and educators to get the message out to our most vulnerable population, DON'T TEXT and DRIVE!"
“Young drivers need to learn that the consequences to texting and driving can be deadly,” said RIDOT Director Lewis. “As we visit area high schools, we will be armed with the same safety message: Don’t text and drive. It Can Wait.”

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