Awareness is prize in texting and driving campaign

Andrew Linnabary

Twenty-five percent of all auto accidents occur while someone is texting, according to the Kansas Insurance Department.

On average, if texting and driving, a driver takes their eyes off the road for five seconds at a time.

“At highway speeds, that covers the distance of a football field,” Ken Selzer, Kansas Insurance Department Commissioner, said.

This month, the Kansas Insurance Department launched its “Don’t Text #JustDrive” contest. The contest aims to raise awareness to the growing number of accidents and fatalities involving texting and driving.

Students can take the pledge by texting Shocker to 50555 or going to ks.org/justdrive.

Selzer said the Kansas Insurance Department anticipates 40 to 50,000 pledges statewide.

The contest is not limited to students, Selzer explained, but is also aimed at faculty, administration and family members.

Selzer said that after a “number of years of declining automobile accidents and fatalities,” there has been an upward spike.

“A lot of people think that has to do with distracted driving, especially texting and driving,” he said.

The insurance department had the idea of a contest because of a contest’s widespread appeal, Selzer said.

“I think all kinds of people will rally around that,” he said. “Anybody that likes Wichita State will cast a vote for Wichita State.”

Outside of the contest, the insurance department is “doing quite a bit” to reduce texting and driving, Selzer said. To Selzer’s knowledge, no previous efforts have been made by the Kansas Insurance Department to reduce texting and driving.

“We’ve teamed up with Miss Kansas, and she has helped us with commercials and PSAs,” Selzer said. “So we’re trying to make it as visible as we possibly can.

“It’s a subject that gets talked about a lot, so we need to do something different to actually encourage action.”

Selzer said the ultimate goal is reducing fatalities.

When asked if texting and driving tickets by police officers are effective, Selzer made a comparison to seatbelts.

“Seatbelts were an issue,” Selzer said. “They still are an issue, but were a bigger issue several years ago. Ticketing had an impact, but not a big impact. The biggest impact came from the educational efforts.”

Selzer said the prize for the winning school is “yet to be determined,” but said that’s not important — what’s important is getting people participating and raising awareness.

“Certainly they’ll have bragging rights,” Selzer said.

Selzer is working directly with Student Government Association Chief of Staff Katie Deutsch to help promote the contest.

Deutsch said she hopes the WSU student body will be “receptive and understanding” to the fact that texting and driving is a “very dangerous and common occurrence on the road.”

She said SGA is also hosting a “seat simulator,” where students can get behind a simulated school bus wheel and attempt to text and drive to see the “difficulty and impact” it can have.

Deutsch said all of SGA’s cabinets are taking the pledge.

“If we can just have all of us as student leaders say this is a problem and we are committed personally, we’re hoping that’ll have a rippling effect,” she said.