BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — AMHERST — The sentence on the lanyards is so short, it might as well be a text message. A text that five local high schools are hoping everybody will read.
Those schools — Lockport, Niagara Falls, Amherst, Williamsville East and Williamsville South — are joining up with The O’Brien Firm of Buffalo. The partnership is sending out a message that distracted driving is dangerous.
The idea is to recognize the National Safety Council’s efforts to stop distracted driving by having students pledge not to text and drive. And to honor that pledge, students will receive a commemorative “I Don’t Text and Drive” keychain lanyard.
Chris O’Brien said his firm wanted to something to combat the large number of texting drivers who are causing crashes and injuries every day.
“We thought about how we could maybe reach out to area high school students, to start some critical conversations,” O’Brien said. “For years I’ve been known as the guy who sues drunk drivers, but texting while driving is a dangerous new trend that is growing into an epidemic.”
The lanyards will let others know that the wearer recognizes the dangers of texting while driving. A group of students met together Wednesday afternoon at Amherst High School to take a stand against it.
Lockport High School junior Makenzie DePetrillo, 16, seniors Allen Hoste, 17, and Jordan Wheeler, 17, were among the students who met up at Amherst with the O’Brien firm.
Hoste said the school’s SADD group - Students Against Destructive Decisions- started handing out the lanyards Wednesday. A number of kids took some and many signed the pledge too.
“We had them on a table at lunch,” Hoste said.
The O’Brien Firm is donating 1,000 of the distinctive lanyards to the local high schools, which student organizations can sell or distribute to their fellow students. The schools keep 100 percent of any proceeds resulting from the sales of the lanyards, O’Brien said.
According to the National Safety Council, 24 percent of all motor vehicle collisions involve the use of a cell phone. Eleven percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Under the age of 20 is the age group with the largest proportion of distracted drivers on average. Nine are killed each day in accidents caused by distracted driving, the council said.
“I’ve seen too many lives ruined because of bad decisions made behind the wheel and it has got to stop,” O’Brien said.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.