DICKINSON, N.D.-It's not uncommon to see people texting while driving, whether they are stopped at a stoplight or driving down the highway.
According to distraction.gov, in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and an estimated 431,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. Dickinson area first responders are trying to show high schoolers in and around Stark County that just one text message or changing one song can change someone's life forever.
The Dickinson Ambulance Service has joined the "One Text or Call Could Wreck It All" campaign to stop distracted driving.
"We all know that talking on our cellphones while driving is distracting, but that doesn't stop most people from continuing to do it," Riley Howard, an emergency medical technician with the Dickinson Ambulance Service said. "... We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families, and others on the road."
The Dickinson Ambulance Service and Dickinson High School, have an entire month's worth of events planned during September to help students understand the importance of focusing on the road, rather than on their phones.
Howard, who graduated from DHS in 2015, has planned a full-scale emergency demonstration for local high school students to show possible consequences for those who choose to drive while distracted, which will be the first of its kind in Dickinson in more than 10 years. Following the demonstration, the family of Janae Moore will speak to students.
Moore was a Dickinson State University student and standout women's basketball player who was killed in 2013 in a single-car accident near her hometown of Sidney, Mont., because it was believed she was texting and driving.
Members of the Dickinson Ambulance Service, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, members of the Dickinson police and fire departments and CHI St. Alexius will all be involved in the demonstration on Sept. 14.
"We are just trying to make this campaign as impactful as we can," Howard said.
Howard said they are also planning another guest speaker later in the month and said he will be going to schools around the county to talk about the dangers of distracted driving.
Bobbie Johnson, a health careers teacher at DHS, challenged 54 of her students to come up with different ways to help out with the campaign.
The classes have been working to come up with posters to hang around the school building, created a Twitter account to share videos about the impact of drunk driving and have decided to hold a bake sale some time in September with the money raised from the bake sale going to a family that has been affected by distracted driving.
Johnson said having the students involved has been beneficial and hopes that by them being directly involved in the campaign, it will start a serious conversation about texting and driving.
"Even driving to work, you see how many people are looking down or looking at their phones," Johnson said. "So, I would love if my students would start a conversation with each other or even with their parents about it."
Addyson Rose, a senior at DHS and one of the students in Johnson's class, put herself in charge of talking to area law enforcement about the effects of distracted driving and has been researching statistics about distracted driving and coming up with the best way to present all of that to students.
Rose said working on the project has been an eye-opening experience for her and it has made her think twice about checking her phone or even changing a song while she's driving.
"I feel so guilty," Rose said. "It hits home because just one stupid text message that I send could affect someone's life forever or even mine."
Rose said she knows many of her friends text and drive at least occasionally. She added that since she started working on the campaign, she hasn't been texting and driving because she understands that results of one text message can be "scary."
She added that while they can talk to other students about texting and driving, it often doesn't really hit home for them until they hear or watch people's stories who have directly been affected by distracted driving.
"It's real, it's such a real thing," Rose said. "We can reach out to them, but I think the campaign will really get to them."
She said while she knows it won't stop everyone from texting and driving, she hopes that they think about what they are doing before they decide to send a text while in control of a vehicle.
"I hope that they think about what that text could do," Rose said, "or that Snapchat, or whatever it is. Just to focus on the road and think about whose life they could affect."
Involving the community
Besides bringing their message to high schoolers, Howard said they are also trying to encourage all members of the community to stop texting and driving.
The Dickinson Ambulance Service, in conjunction with local police and firefighting personnel, will also be partnering with local businesses and organizations to set distracted driving policies.
Howard said they have already had many local businesses present their distracted driving policies to them and are working with many others to help them build their own distracted driving policy to encourage their employees not to text and drive.
"Every driver in Dickinson has a role in this effort," Howard said. "A lot of them (businesses) are really excited about it and more than willing to help out with any additional things we might need."