As teenagers get ready for summer, a nationwide effort by a mobile phone carrier is trying to spread the message about the dangers of distracted driving.
A team of AT&T employees went to Helias Catholic High School on Friday and let students wear special goggles that simulated what can happen when a driver is distracted while behind the wheel. The school was part of the Missouri leg of AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign.
"We value the lives of our students and our community, and we want to make sure our kids are well educated in their decision-making," Helias Principal Kenya Fuemmeler said. "Whether it's a text message, a YouTube video or a Snapchat update, checking those out while driving is so dangerous."
Fuemmeler said the school's faculty discussed how they and all adults at times can be just as guilty as young people of being distracted by something on a cellphone.
In the front of the area where students wore the goggles was a wall with the names of young people from around the country who had lost their lives in distracted-driving crashes.
"It is an epidemic, and we need to be good models for our students," Fuemmeler said.
"We've been doing the campaign for six years," AT&T spokesman Christopher Johnson said. "Our message is that your whole life isn't worth a selfie or text on your phone while driving."
Johnston said the goggles use virtual reality technology where students go through scenarios and hear messages from four people who have lost someone close to them in a distracted-driving crash.
"The average text, if you are looking at a phone while driving, distracts a person about four to five seconds; so we use the length of a football field to show the kids how fast you can travel in that short amount of time," he said. "They travel at the speed a vehicle would normally be driving, and they don't know if the car will stop in time to avoid a crash, so many times we'll see them give a bit of a jerk as they're watching this."
"It changed my thoughts about being on my phone in my car," Helias sophomore Marissa Nienhueser said. "I'm on my phone 90 percent of the time when I'm in my car now, and this really changed my mind. Watching the wreck and seeing the messages from people who have lost someone already really made me think."