Creswell, Pleasant Hill and Cottage Grove seniors are featured on a billboard on N. 9th St. in Cottage Grove. The seniors are, from left, Zoey Minium of Cottage Grove; Izzy Ramirez of Creswell; Kailey Cummings of Cottage Grove; Hannah Bettis of Creswell; and Ashley Anderson of Pleasant Hill. PHOTO PROVIDED/BRUCE BERG PHOTOGRAPHY
Offenses under the Oregon’s distracted driving law began counting toward elevated sanctions July 1. In the first offense, not contributing to a crash is a Class B violation with a fine up to $1,000. In a second offense, or first offense (if it contributed to a crash), is a Class A violation with a fine up to $2,500. A third offense in ten years is a Class B misdemeanor, with a fine up to $2,500 and potential for six months in jail.
Creswell, Pleasant Hill and Cottage Grove seniors are featured on a Cottage Grove billboard this summer, as they pair with a Springfield photographer to promote an anti-texting while driving initiative.
The message is to #XtheTXT – to ignore the text, to stop driving distracted. It’s an ever-growing issue in our society, and the statistics reflect just how dangerous distracted driving is. Statistics show that text messaging takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of about five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that equals driving the length of a football field… blind.
Zoey Minium of Cottage Grove; Izzy Ramirez of Creswell; Kailey Cummings of Cottage Grove; Hannah Bettis of Creswell; and Ashley Anderson of Pleasant Hill, can be seen on the billboard located on N. 9th St. in Cottage Grove. The teens were chosen to be part of Springfield Photographer Bruce Berg’s ”B Seen Team.” They felt compelled to be part of the message.
”I feel it’s an important issue because texting while driving causes a lot of crashes and it’s a serious problem in the United States,” Bettis said.
She’s right; cell phones are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year that cause a half million injuries and take 6,000 lives, according to the United States Department of Transportation.
”I am very honored to be on Bruce Burg’s B Seen Team,” Anderson said. ”I fully support getting the word out there to tell people not to text and drive. My dad and brother are both firemen who have responded to some serious wrecks due to the drivers being distracted by their phone.”
According to Oregon Department of Transportation, from 2012-16 just in Oregon, there were 10,814 crashes involving distracted drivers, resulting in 70 fatalities and 16,503 injuries.
Anderson’s family has seen such tragedies up close, but Ramirez said her advocacy was sparked for this subject after being involved with the Every 15 Minutes Program at Creswell High School in the spring.
The statistic goes that every 15 minutes someone in the United States is killed as the result of an alcohol or distracted driving-related crash. Lane County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Oregon State Police Department and South Lane Fire & Rescue, puts on the two-day program that challenges teens to think before drinking and to not become distracted by cell phones.
Anderson said that in just seconds the ”attention vampire,” (cell phones) can take lives, and far too many people do it.
”I have seen many people in my life text while they are driving, and it honestly surprises me who I’ve seen it from,” Anderson said. ”Some of these people have also been the people who have lectured ME not to text and drive.”
Anderson said that when she sees her friends texting and driving, she usually mentions something to them. ”But in the times that I haven’t, I completely regretted it, regardless of nothing happening during that time,” Anderson said. ”I wish I would have said something to them because that could help break a habit.”
Anderson said she’s never texted while driving, and absolutely never plans on it.
”It is such a simple problem to fix,” she said. ”Just put your phone on silent and away from view so it can’t distract you. If you need it in an emergency, you will know where to find it.”
Being included on the billboards is ”a great opportunity to promote this great cause so that people are more aware of what’s going on and potentially save future lives,” Ramirez said.