By: Joseph Arsenault, Staff Writer

Emilee McCallister , President Kate Foster, and Colleen Ward . President Kate Foster holds the pledge.

Emilee McCallister (left), President Kate Foster (middle), and Colleen Ward (right). President Kate Foster holds the pledge. (Courtesy of Colleen Ward)

UMF’s Student Health Center and the UMF Health Club are coordinating a Distracted Driving Campaign in order to raise awareness of the risks associated with averting attention from the road.
Two student health advocates at the UMF Student Health Center are helping run the event. Emilee McCallister, senior Community Health major at UMF and Colleen Ward, a sophomore Community Health major at the university are preparing for March 11 when pledge signing will be initiated in the Olsen Student Center with help from the Health Club.
Ward mentioned the hopes that are within the campus community, 500 students and staff will sign away their name in ink pledging against personal texting while driving.  Though, it’s a bit deeper than that.  “By someone signing the pledge they are protecting lives by never texting while driving, being a good passenger and speaking out if the driver in their car is distracted, and encouraging their friends and family to drive phone-free,” Ward said in an email interview.
McCallister agrees that there is more to it than texting and driving, “While our campaign is focusing on texting and driving there are also many other kinds of distracted driving such as, talking on the phone, playing with the radio, eating and drinking.”
Serious injuries and even death is associated with distracted driving according to Ward. “Distracted driving is a serious issue that is affecting our population.  It is increasing unnecessary deaths in today’s society.  By refraining from texting while driving, we can reduce those unnecessary deaths that it causes,” she said.
There are many reasons associated with the campaign and one goal stands out for McCallister.  She said, “The overall goal of this campaign is to bring awareness to students and that they realize that this is in fact a health issue. Many people believe that they can text and drive and that they only look for a second, but we have some interesting facts and a video to show that proves it’s much more than that.”
She even associated consumption of alcohol and texting while driving. “It’s very important that drivers refrain from distracted driving, texting and driving is equivalent to drinking 4 beers and you are 23 times more likely to crash,” said McCallister.
If a phone must be answered or a distraction comes into play while a driver is behind the wheel Ward suggested alternatives. “If they [driver] are alone, pull over,” she said.  “They are not only reducing their risk of a crash but others on the road as well.  If there is someone else in the car, have them be the one texting for you.”
It might seem the younger population is more apt to text and drive. Age is not truly a deciding factor regarding texting and driving. “While many people may believe that texting and driving only occurs among teens, it’s actually just as common among young adults and adults,” said McCallister.
In Maine laws are in effect against texting and driving and drivers should be aware. “In Maine it is against the law to text and drive for all drivers,” said McCallister, “and it’s also against the law to be distracted at all. So if a police officer believes you are distracted while driving they can stop you.”
A very important thing to remember is who is influenced when driving distracted. Ward said in a final statement, “The biggest consequence is a crash that could possibly be fatal to you as well as others in the car involved.”
Signing the pledge seems a trip down a safer road. To sign the pledge, find the campaign the week of March 11.  “We will have pledge week the 11-15 of March and we will be in the student center during lunch time and in the FRC a few evenings,” said McCallister.