Liana Soto cautiously waved a picket sign with an omen that could save a driver’s life—“Don’t Text = Save Lives.”
“This is as bad as suicide,” said Soto, 15-year-old student at the Collegiate Institute of Math and Science, a school within Columbus High School.
Drivers rolling past Peace Plaza in Pelham Parkway honked as they noticed Soto’s sign on the perils of texting and driving, a rising epidemic among new drivers.
She and several dozen students mobbed the area May 1st, spending an hour waving signs reading “End This Hex – Stop The Text,” “Phones Can Wait – Lives Cannot” and “No Text, No Wrecks, No Worries.”
The demonstration was to call attention to the problem, which kills an estimated 11 teens each day, according to the National Institute for Highway Safety.
“I thought it was pretty cool that we were all going to get together as a school and bring awareness,” said Ashmanie Khalian, a senior at CIMS now in the middle of learning to drive.
Her parents have already drilled the concept of avoiding the cell phone while driving. “They say don’t even pick it up,” Khalian said.
The students crafted their colorful signs during art class headed by Larry Minetti, CIMS’s only art teacher, who noticed the need to get students educated before getting behind the wheel.
“They took me so seriously with this cause,” said Minetti.
The strength of the cause was enough for Councilman Jimmy Vacca to stop by the demonstration as a show of support, urging teens to spread the word on the dangers of distracted driving.
“If you’re texting you’re distracted,” said Vacca, who chairs the City Council Transportation Committee. “If you’re distracted, you’re a danger to yourself and others on the road.”
Vacca was joined by community leaders Edith Blitzer of the Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association, Community Board 11 District Manager Jeremy Warneke and Nancy Dawson, a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“Multi-tasking doesn’t work when you’re driving,” said Dawson, whose son was killed by a drunk driver.
Last month was National Distracted Driving Month.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383