AAA Mid-Atlantic warns against ‘intexticated’ driving

MIDDLETOWN — Take the wheel, turn off the cell phone and put it out of sight.

And leave it alone — or risk experiencing a split second that can change your life and others.

Don’t text and drive or hit the road while intoxicated.

Speaking to an auditorium with more than 250 Middletown High students on Monday, AAA Mid-Atlantic launched its “Don’t Drive Intoxicated-Don’t Drive Intexticated” on a sobering note.

Wife and husband musicians Nadjah Nicole and Ismail Yusef-Ali Abdus-Salaam retold their story of near-fatal injuries suffered when hit head-on by a distracted driver in 2017.

“You have to think about the person you hit and how it will affect their life and how it will affect your life,” said Ms. Nicole, who performed on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2015. ” … Your future is important.”

Ms. Nicole suggested using a “Do not disturb” I-Phone setting through Bluetooth automatically sending a message “I’m driving” to avoid temptation of answering the call.

Tearful Middletown resident Laurie Wapniarek recalled the agony of her father succumbing to fatal injuries when struck head-on by a distracted driver last year. The distracted driver was driving 65 mph when it struck her dad’s vehicle that was stopped at a light.

“I never thought this could happen to me or my family,” she said with an emotional tone. “It only takes a second to change your life and someone elses forever.”

Gov. John Carney recalled learning of a MHS football star’s crash-related death in the 1960s. He idolized the player and deeply felt the loss.

“It struck me in the heart even though I was living in Claymont,” he said. “I can’t imagine how it affected the students at Middletown High (and how it hit the community.)”

With the support of Delaware law enforcement and governmental entities, AAA Mid-Atlantic aims to publicize its campaign to educate drivers of the dangers of using cell phones while on the road.

“Whether it’s texting, calling, navigating or something else, using your cellphone is dangerous while driving,” said Cathy Rossi, vice president of Public and Government Affairs for AAA-Mid Atlantic.

“In fact, distracted driving can have the same consequence as drinking and driving: deaths and injuries,

“AAA’s ‘Don’t Drive Intoxicated—Don’t Drive Intexticated’ campaign targets drivers who would never consider getting behind the wheel after drinking an alcoholic beverage and, yet, will use a mobile device while driving, dangerously taking their eyes and minds off the road.”

After listening to a 35-minute presentation with rapt attention, students were asked to sign a pledge card acknowledging the danger of distracted driving and behavior needed to avoid it.

National Highway Safety Administration studies show “nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the crash event.”

Nine persons are killed every day due to distracted driving and 1,000 are injured.

To the mostly freshman and sophomores attending and on the verge of driving themselves, Ms. Rossi stressed that “Most of you have an advantage over older drivers and young ones (already on the road).

“You have not yet developed any bad habits.”

Thus there’s still opportunity to make it a habit to never be a distracted driver and avoid the pain of a horrific crash.

“We know you are the future of the state and we want you to be the future of the state,” Gov. Carney said. ” … We want the best for each and every one of you. Be conscious, be alert and don’t drive distracted or intoxicated.”

More information and tips for avoiding distracted driving is online at www.AAA.com/DontDriveDistracted.

Pledge card

On Monday morning, Middletown High students had opportunity to sign a pledge to take distracted driving seriously and fight to end it.

I will:

• Put my mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.

• Be a positive role model by speaking out if a driver is driving distracted.

• Help spread the message by encouraging others to never drive distracted.

I will not:

• Use social media while driving.

• Check or send emails or texts or use my phone camera when driving.

• Call or text others when I know they are driving.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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