"Don't text and drive."
It goes in one ear and out the other. Kinda like, "Don't forget to brush your teeth." But when drivers' thumbs are on the keypad, their hands aren't gripping the wheel, and their eyes aren't on the road.
State Farm agents here and around the country took aim at the deadly combination Saturday by putting on Celebrate My Drive gatherings, encouraging young drivers to sign a pledge not to text and drive.
The event at Hawthorne Park featured skill tests, music, and a grim reminder of what can happen when drivers are distracted.
"I'm definitely never going to do it," said Miles Moran of Medford. "In 3 or 4 seconds, you're traveling almost the length of a football field, and I think that's really scary."
Among the activities was a shopping cart time-trial, in which participants had to type a message while completing a winding course. Like most entrants, Riley Finnegan discovered pounding away on a phone makes steering even a shopping cart difficult. "I don't have the skill to multitask," Finnegan admitted. "I can't even take a drink of water while I'm driving."
She simply pulls off the road when a phone call comes in or waits until she arrives to her destination, she says. Finnegan has classes at both North and South Medford campuses.
"There's a terrible amount of texting in the South parking lot," she said. "And when I get to North, you see the same amount."
Mikayla Coddington said she's texted at stoplights, only to catch herself moments later. As a result, she is extra-cautious when going through intersections.
"I look to the left and right because I've heard about what can happen if someone's not paying attention," she said. "I see adults texting, not just kids."
While it might simply be a matter of common sense to not text or talk while driving, when the phone buzzes it's an easy thing to grab and look for a message.
"The real issue is when you answer the text," said Jahan Kahusi of Medford. "I know there are many people affected by texting and driving, losing loved ones or parts of loved ones."
The way Kahusi sees it, there's no hurry to respond to a call.
"There's no reason to answer a text when it comes in and not waiting," he said. "I hardly pay attention to my phone when I'm not driving. Texting is just a form of communication and should be left for the real important things, like letting your mother know you're taking the bus instead of getting a ride with your dad."
Jacksonville resident Erika Adams keeps a vigilant eye on other drivers texting, whether she's using her learners' permit or riding in a school bus.
"You have to trust that everyone is doing what they should," Adams said. "They should pay attention, and I really am worried about the others. The problem isn't just with teenagers, it's with full-grown adults, too. I've knocked on the bus window before. The driver looked offended, but I'd rather offend somebody than have someone die."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email email@example.com.