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Three Lakes Students Learn About Dangers of Texting & Driving at Event Hosted by AT&T, AAA and Wisconsin State Patrol

Local Teen Austin Wierschke, LG U.S. National Texting Champion, Challenges Peers to Join Him in Taking Pledge to Never Text & Drive

Three Lakes, Wisconsin, March 08, 2013

Nearly 200 students at Three Lakes High School learned about the dangers of texting and driving and were urged to sign a pledge to never text behind the wheel during an event at the school today.

Three Lakes teamed up with AT&T, AAA and the Wisconsin State Patrol in a public awareness campaign to urge the school’s students, and all drivers, that text messages can – and should – wait until after driving.

Senior Austin Wierschke, who is the two-time LG U.S. National Texting Champion, also challenged his peers to join him in taking the AT&T pledge to never text and drive.  Last August, Wierschke won the sixth annual LG U.S. National Texting Championship, sponsored by LG Electronics USA.

“My parents can attest to the fact that I text all the time, but I would never text and drive,” Wierschke said.  “I am proud to take the pledge to never text behind the wheel, and I encourage all of my peers to do the same.  It’s really a simple message: there is no text worth dying over.”

To encourage other teens to never text while behind the wheel, Wierschke will be featured in new TV and radio messages sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that will be broadcast statewide in April, which is national Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Today’s all-school assembly was part of a series of high school events being held around the state by AT&T, AAA, and the Wisconsin State Patrol to drive home the dangers of texting behind the wheel.  Students were given the chance to experience firsthand the dangers of texting while driving in a safe setting through AAA’s distracted driving simulator.  They were also shown a powerful AT&T documentary called “The Last Text” that shares real stories about lives altered by someone’s decision to text and drive.

Students were also urged to visit www.ItCanWait.com to take the no-texting-and-driving pledge, and then share their promise with others via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook.  More than 1.2 million people across the country have already taken the pledge to never text and drive.  The pledge effort is part of AT&T’s national public awareness campaign aimed directly at stopping the dangerous practice of texting while driving.

“Far too many lives have been forever changed because someone decided to text behind the wheel, and we want to spread the word about how deadly a simple text can be,” said Robyn Gruner, Director of External Affairs for AT&T Wisconsin.  “We’re challenging all drivers, particularly our teens, to take the pledge to never text and drive and make it a lifelong commitment.”

Wisconsin recently marked the second anniversary of its no-texting-while-driving ban on December 1, 2012.  The law prohibits sending an e-mail or text message while driving and imposes a fine of up to $400.  As a primary enforcement law, officers may stop and ticket drivers solely for texting and driving.  Wisconsin is among 39 states that ban text messaging by all drivers.

“By making texting while driving illegal, we’ve taken an important strong step forward in making our roads safer,” said State Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst).  “But we must continue to educate our drivers, especially our teens, of the deadly consequences of this dangerous practice.”

Texting and driving is involved in more than 100,000 vehicle crashes each year, often causing injuries and deaths.Studies show teen drivers are particularly at risk.  While 97% of teens say they know texting while driving is dangerous, 75% say the practice is “common” among their friends, according to an AT&T survey2.

“The risks of texting and driving are very real.  Studies show that drivers who send text messages behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to be in a crash,” said State Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander).  “We hope to drive home the dangers and encourage our youth to put down their phones while on the road.”

In 2012, 165 organizations joined AT&T in helping spread the message and encourage people to make a pledge to never text and drive.  This year, AT&T is working to expand the campaign even further, including:

  • Working with device makers to pre-load no-texting-while-driving technologies and solutions into handsets, with the goal of making these solutions standard on all AT&T smartphones; and
  • Launching a year-round no-texting-while-driving simulator tour targeting more than 380 events nationwide

In addition to Three Lakes, Wisconsin assemblies have already been held this school year at Stevens Point Pacelli High School, St. Francis High School, Brookfield Central High School, Burlington High School, Edgar High School, La Crosse Logan High School and Washington Park High School in Racine.  Events are being planned this spring in Middleton, Eau Claire and Ontario, among others.

For more information on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, please visit: www.att.com/textingcanwait.  For more information on teen driving and AAA’s national initiative to ban texting while driving in every state by 2013, please visit www.TeenDriving.AAA.com.