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AT&T It Can Wait campaign comes to Robinson

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Students who took the It Can Wait pledge signed the banner that was hung up at the in-school assembly today.

Students who took the It Can Wait pledge signed the banner that was hung up at the in-school assembly today.

Photo M. McClintock

Photo M. McClintock

Students who took the It Can Wait pledge signed the banner that was hung up at the in-school assembly today.

Macy McClintock, Managing Editor

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Hillsborough County has the highest rate of pedestrian and biking fatalities in the country.”

That was how Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen started his speech against distracted driving yesterday at the AT&T It Can Wait in-school assembly.

AT&T started the campaign in 2010 to inform teen drivers about the hazards of distracted driving and has traveled all across the country promoting it. But Robinson is the first school in Hillsborough County to host the campaign.

To emphasize the importance of this, Florida Representative Jackie Toledo, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins, Robinson Principal Robert Bhoolai,  AT&T representative Karen McAllister and Cohen all attended and spoke.

“We know everyone in this day and age has a phone in their hands…we’re almost addicted to it,” Eakins said. “And even when we get into the car we can forget where we are and get that pressure to check our phone when a text comes. Next thing we know our eyes aren’t on the road.”

Toledo discussed her new plan to propose a law on the house floor against texting and driving while Eakins focused on giving students the facts.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Toledo’s bill would make texting and driving a primary offense in Florida, making the sunshine state the 40th state with that policy.

“Seven out of 10 people look at their phone while driving, three out of 10 surf the internet while driving,” Eakins said. “And 20% of drivers use their phones to take selfies while they drive, this is the most scarring statistic to me.”

But AT&T’s campaign is making strides to end distracted driving. Throughout school lunches this week, students had the option to take the It Can Wait pledge to not text and drive. Currently, 19,531,162 pledges have been made worldwide. But it shouldn’t stop there.

“Whatever you do behind the wheel can impact other drivers,” McAllister said. “Every time you take your eyes off the road you are endangering your life and someone else’s.”

Prior to the conference, students were encouraged to take the pledge and sign the It Can Wait poster during their lunches last week. Over 200 students and staff took the pledge and the poster hung along the wall during the assembly. Eakins added his name to the poster by the end of the conference, while being moved to tears.

One special presenter, Steve Augello, lost his daughter to a texting and driving incident in 2008. Augello had strict rules about phone use in the car. It was never allowed. Allie was driving home from play practice when she was hit head on by a four-month pregnant 19 year-old who veered into the other lane while sending a text. All three died instantly.

“Put your phone down,” Augello said as tears fell from his eyes. “It can wait.”

As Augello gave his speech, the entirety of the room was silent. Everyone was wiping off their tears.
A deadly car crash is a driver’s worst fear, a parent’s worst fear, a friend’s worst fear. But these accidents can be eliminated.

No text is worth a life. No tweet is worth a life. No Snapchat is worth a life.

They can wait.

It can wait.

Click here to take the pledge.

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AT&T It Can Wait campaign comes to Robinson