DOT brings 'It Can Wait' campaign against texting and driving to EHHS

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
East Hartford - posted Wed., Sep. 25, 2013
Krystal Betancourt takes the ‘It Can Wait’ pledge with the help of DOT representative Michael P. Whaley. Photos by Lisa Stone.
Krystal Betancourt takes the ‘It Can Wait’ pledge with the help of DOT representative Michael P. Whaley. Photos by Lisa Stone.

The junior and senior classes of East Hartford High School recently attended a presentation about the dangers of texting and driving. The Department of Transportation and AT&T brought the “It Can Wait” campaign to EHHS on Sept. 20.

“The idea behind this campaign is to stop people from texting and driving,” said DOT representative Michael P. Whaley.  “Statistics show that teens are a large portion of the offenders. However, there are many adults that text and drive as well. People don’t realize just how dangerous that is. One brief moment of taking your eyes away from the road, and anything can happen. I wouldn’t want to be any of the people in the video that we show the students. That would be a nightmare that you just can’t wake up from.”

The video to which Whaley referred is the campaign video that shows four situations that have been caused by texting while driving. The offenders say that they would give anything to get that moment back.  If they knew then what they know now, they would never have texted while driving.

In one situation, a young man in his 20s named Reggie was texting at the wheel, drifted into the oncoming lane and sideswiped a car. That car went spinning into the oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the road.  A large pickup truck T-boned the spinning car that was carrying two men, who were killed on impact.  The car was unrecognizable. This situation really seemed to get the students’ attention. Reggie was determined to join the campaign against texting while driving. He doesn’t want anyone to have to live with the agony and regret that he lives with every day. Reggie said, “In this life, we should always give more than we take. But how can you give more than taking two lives? That is something that I can never make right.”

East Hartford Police Officer Robert Rohner spoke at the end of the video. “I had the unfortunate task of waking a father out of his sleep early in the morning not that long ago to tell him his two sons were dead,” said Rohner. “Please don’t text and drive. Respect yourselves and the lives of others enough to pull over to make a call or text. Nothing is worth ending up like those two brothers. Don’t do that to yourselves or your parents.”

Rohner is a school resource officer, along with Officer James O’Connor.  He is also the school wrestling coach and has a strong working relationship with the students. “These kids are a great bunch of kids. I truly do care about them and want them to stay safe,” said Rohner.

Kristal Betancourt took the pledge to not text and drive. “I keep my promises,” said Betancourt. “If I sign this promise, I will keep it. That video really opened my eyes. I don’t want to be any of those people in that video. That video was real life events. It reached out to me. It made me tear up knowing that it can happen to anyone, even if it wasn’t on purpose.”

The DOT is aiming to visit 60 high schools in the next three years. Its next pilot program is called the “Save a Life Tour.” This will include the use of a distracted driver simulator.

For more information on this campaign, visit www.itcanwait.com.


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