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Statewide Initiative: Pledge To Stop Texting While Driving

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The Kansas Insurance Department has launched a statewide campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving. The initiative begins with the state’s seven public universities.

Wichita State University and the other schools are competing to get students, faculty, alumni and community members to take a pledge to stop texting while driving.

Katie Deutsch, of WSU’s Student Government Association, says there will be events on campus to promote the competition.

"At the end of the day, it’s not about who wins, of course, but it’s about how much awareness we can raise," she says.

Deutsch says they’ll use a “seat simulator” from a sheriff’s department to drive home the dangers of texting while driving.

"It’s a bus that students can go in and get behind the wheel, kind of a simulated texting and driving experience [to]  just see how dangerous it is how difficult it is to maneuver behind the wheel while texting and driving," she says.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer says 350 people lost their lives in car accidents throughout the state last year, and he blames texting for many of the crashes.

"We think, from the information we have, that about 25 percent of accidents happen while someone is texting," he says. "That’s a high, high number."

Selzer says the awareness campaign is needed now because the number of fatal car accidents spiked last year, after several years of decline. He blames the increased use of texting and social media while driving, particularly among young people.

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Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer

"We directly want to impact the number of lives that are lost due to texting while driving," Selzer says. "As you can imagine, if we reduce the number of accidents, we will be able to temper the increase in auto insurance rates. So there’s a very direct link to the [Kansas] Insurance Department."

The contest runs through Nov. 22.

Pledge votes can be cast through a website or text messaging--when you’re not driving, of course.

Participating in the initiative are the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University, Washburn University and Emporia State University.

Pledge votes can be cast by texting 50555 and choosing one of the school keywords: KU, Wildcat, Shocker, Tiger, Gorilla, Ichabod, or Hornet. Voters can also go online at engage.att.com/icwkansas. More information about the campaign can also be found at www.ksinsurance.org/justdrive.

Selzer hopes to expand the campaign to include high schools next year.

Major funding for the campaign comes from AT&T, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Kansas Automobile Insurance Plan, the Kansas Turnpike Authority and several insurance companies.

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Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

 
To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

 

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.