Teens Learn Dangers of Texting-while-Driving

Texting while driving generic AP

Georgia and Michigan are the latest states to approve a ban on driving-while-texting. Twenty-five states now have such bans.

I's a subject that's attracting a lot of attention, including from Oprah Winfrey, who is spearheading a national campaign to crackdown on distracted driving.

But are young people getting the message?

CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller went to Sardis High School in Sardis City, Alabama, where stuents were put to a text test.

Miller pointed out that Alabama currently has no restrictions on texting-while-driving. And that, she says, is jsut fine with many teenagers there.

But this week, they got a strong lesson on the dangers.

Heather Hurd, 26, was on the way to see her wedding planner, when a truck driver plowed into her car on a Florida highway two years ago. He was texting and lost control. Heather died instantly.

Kim Hurd, Heather's mother, told Miller, "I'll never be the mother of a bride. I'll never have grandchildren from Heather. It destroyed me."

Ever since that day, Heather's parents, Russell and Kim Hurd, have been on a mission to outlaw texting behind the wheel.

Russell Hurd says the couple is "trying to change the culture and get the word out, that this could happen to you."

Last year alone, distracted drivers were blamed for nearly 6,000 deaths, and among the youngest drivers, a recent survey found half of those between the ages of 16 and 29 admit to driving-while-texting, according to Common Knowledge Research Services, a marketing research company.

At Sardis High, Police Officer Glen Cline, of the Etowah County Sheriff's Office, has set up an innovative program giving students a real-world test on the dangers. While he rides shotgun, teens negotiate an obstacle course full of hazards -- all while texting.

Lauren Tollenson says she texts constantly behind the wheel.

When asked if she sends or receives texts while driving, she said she does both.

But after taking out a half-dozen cones and other surprises that drivers often face in the obstacle course, she was a little shaken.

"Did that basketball throw you at all?" Miller asked Tollenson.

She replied, "Yes, I just ran over it."

Miller pointed out, "That could be a cat or a person."

Tollenson said, "If those would have been people, I'd have killed about five people."

But, with driving-while-texting still legal in Alabama, some are worried about what could come.

Cline told Miller, "I'm concerned that there's going to be some serious injuries or deaths before it wakes the right people up."

Even while being instructed on the dangers, the Sardis students couldn't stop texting. They admit they need a deterrent.

So, the Hurds brought their story to these students, hoping common sense prevails.

Russell Hurd told the students, "That could have been a puppy, it could have been another person, it could have been a vehicle.

Kimberly Hurd added, "If you would survive, but you killed someone else, could you live with that. You don't want that. It's not worth it. It's not worth a life."

It's a message they hope will save others.

Russell Hurd said, "Each day that these laws are not in place is another day that someone could be killed because of texting while driving."

The Hurds helped pass the texting-while-driving prohibition in Maryland, but in Florida -- the state where their daughter died -- the measure failed. The same occurred in Alabama, despite 95 of 98 state House members favoring the ban. They just couldn't agree on how to enforce it.

But the momentum is certainly there. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll found 97 percent of Americans, say texting and driving should be illegal.

For more information on texting while driving:
Russ and Kim Hurd's story
State laws regarding texting and driving
Latest state laws regarding distracted driving
Information on federal government's response to the growing danger of texting and driving
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