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‘Your phone is a weapon’ when you text and drive

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Students listen to Texting and Driving speaker Angela Hefter about the dangers of using your phone while driving. The event took place at the Northridge Center, USU on Wednesday. Photo credit: David J. Hawkins / Daily Sundial

Students listen to Texting and Driving speaker Angela Hefter about the dangers of using your phone while driving. The event took place at the Northridge Center, USU on Wednesday. Photo credit: David J. Hawkins / Daily Sundial

Stephanie Gutierrez, 23, senior public health promotion major, remembers the day her boyfriend was killed in a Metrolink train derailing accident in Chatsworth on September 12, 2008.

“Chaos is the best word I can use to describe that day,” Hernandez said. “And to think that the engineer and 100 texts stood in between the life of my boyfriend and his untimely death.”

The engineer was texting while operating the train and refused to acknowledge several emergency notifications instructing a switch of tracks in order to avoid collision with a freight train.

In an effort to raise awareness among students about the dangers of texting while driving, the CSUN Health Administration Student Association (HASA) came together with the Jacob Hefter Foundation at the Northridge Center Wednesday night.

The Jacob Hefter Foundation was founded by Alan and Angela Hefter, the parents of CSULB college freshman and avid golfer Jacob Hefter who, along with 29 others, was killed in the accident.

Hernandez is passionate about the foundation and the notion that no text is so important that it cannot wait. “We all have the option, choice and power to make the right decision,” said Hernandez.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAPD) were in attendance and on board with the idea that “it (texting) can wait”.

CHP Officer Gil Hernandez emphasized the importance of driving while distracted and the consequences that are sure to follow such a decision.

“As drivers, you should not only focus on the dangers of drinking and driving but also texting being involved with other distractions as well,” Hernandez said. “Distracted driving is a comparable killer to drunk driving.”

Among volunteers for the event were students from Palmdale High School, where Jacob Hefter graduated from as valedictorian in 2008.

Senior Nina Crosby, 17, became a volunteer because the Hefter tragedy hit close to home.

“My brother was a close friend of his and I experienced firsthand the effects a decision like texting while driving has on those left behind,” Crosby said, “I joined as soon as I started at Palmdale High because I never wanted to have to go through that with my friends.”

High school senior Gloria Median, 18, said she is glad she got involved with the Jacob Hefter Foundation through the Health Career program at her school.

“I use what I learn as a tool to help my family member make better decisions in regards to drinking or texting while behind the wheel,” said Medina.

Captain Mark Kleckner of the LAFD, CSUN alumni, said that his fire station has been called to many traffic accidents caused by texting while driving. “Pull over, park safely, and then text or make your call,” Kleckner said.

CHP Officer Rebecca Thomas shared photos of accidents along with the story of losing her son, who was a passenger in a drunken driving accident.

“It CAN happen to you,” Thomas said, “I told my son every day to be mindful of the road and not drink and drive but he still was killed because of someone else’s decision.”

Officer Thomas also said that as a passenger, you have the power to speak up, take away the keys or phone and simply get out of the car. “Your phone is a weapon especially behind the wheel of a car,” said Thomas.

“Driving is an awesome responsibility,” said Thomas, “anytime you decrease your attention, you increase your mortality possibility.”

Upon exiting, attendants were asked to sign a pledge banner saying that they would “make the positive choice and pledge to not text and drive” and Jacob Hefter Foundation merchandise was raffled off. Coffee, cookies and fruit were provided.

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