About 300 students were all present at Freeport High School early Friday to hear about the dangers of distracted driving.
"There are a lot of important adults sitting here because they care about you," Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said at the start of the morning program, where students were also addressed by Brandon V. Ray, AT&T's regional director of external affairs, and Freeport's mayor and police chief, Robert Kennedy and Miguel Bermudez, respectively.
"This is the absolute best forum there is for those just learning to drive," Bermudez said before the hourlong forum in the school's auditorium.
AT&T launched its "Texting & Driving ... It Can Wait" campaign in 2010 to advise drivers to "keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone."
Rice explained that texting while driving is equivalent to putting your hand over your eyes and blinding yourself for 5 to 7 seconds. She said we are only as safe as the choices we make.
An AT&T study conducted this year found that seven in 10 people engage in smartphone activities while driving; and the National Safety Council reported that cellphone use while driving has contributed to 1.6 million crashes and nearly 330,000 injuries nationwide in the past year.
Freeport High School Principal Linda Carter knows from personal experience the importance of the lesson. Her husband, Don Carter, was killed by a distracted driver while crossing Sunrise Highway in 2009.
"It is so, so very significant for our community," Carter said of the topic during an interview after the event. "If we can save one life, how blessed it will be."
The event also featured a documentary entitled "The Last Text," which illustrated personal stories from people affected by distracted driving.
"It was sad, very sad," junior Raiel Swiney said afterward.
As a finale, students were asked to pledge to never text and drive. Those who pledged joined the more than 7.5 million who have already taken the vow.
"It was informative," junior Karen Mando said. "It's something that made me think about possible future events that I can prevent."
Those who want to take the pledge or learn more about the dangers of distracted driving can visit ItCanWait.com.