Message: Stop texting and drive

Retired bailiff John Gordon, spoke at the Superintendents Meeting Wednesday, discussing incorporating his program about stopping teens from distracted driving.

The meeting was held at the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center. Gordon has spoken to several high schools around Ohio. NCOESC Superintendent Jim Lahoski is working with Gordon to get his program into the local schools.

The target is ninth- through 12th-graders, said Kelly Hohman, NCOESC marketing director.

“They are the ones that are just getting ready to drive,” she said. “We want the kids here to have the same message.”

Gordon’s son inspired him to reach out to young drivers. John Travis Gordon, nicknamed Rusty, was killed by a driver who had been texting. He left a wife, son and daughter. Rusty had been an Eagle Scout and bailiff for the Marion County Common Pleas Court, the same court as Gordon. They had been the only father and son bailiff team in Ohio.

Distracted driving can involve more than texting, Gordon said.

“It could be using a smart phone, eating and drinking, talking to a passenger, grooming, reading maps or using a GPS, watching videos, and changing the radio, CD or MP3 player.”

“Texting and driving is still the No. 1 killer in teenagers,” Gordon said. “Texting and driving involves three things, vision, manual, and the cognitive attention from the driver.”

“When you focus on one particular thing, you are not focused on your driving,” Gordon said.

In the program, Gordon said 3,331 teens were killed in 2011 nationwide with 196 billion text messages sent. Teenagers also are more likely to die in crashes than any other age group.

“Even using a headset does not make you substantially safer. Texting and driving can delay a driver’s reaction time the same as having blood alcohol content at .08 percent,” Gordon said.

He showed several videos, including AT&T’s “The Last Text” and others showing graphic images of drivers involved in car accidents.

Gordon asked, “What can you do?”

“You can take a pledge to not text and drive, commit to being safe and a distraction-free driver, be seen, speak up, and spread the word,” Gordon said. “Like have a designated driver if you drank too much, you can have a designated person to be in charge of answering calls or messages while in the vehicle.”

Gordon visited the state senate in 2011 to testify to get Ohio’s new texting law passed.

The law, which took effect Aug. 31, states that individuals younger than 18 are not permitted to use any mobile communication device while driving in Ohio. That means no texting, e-mailing, cell phone use, video gaming or use of an iPad/tablet or handheld GPS while driving.

A first violation will result in a $150 fine and a 60-day license suspension and a second violation will result in a $300 fine and one-year license suspension. Adult drivers face a $150 fine for texting, reading or sending e-mails.

Gordon spoke about his son, saying, “No life is worth losing over a phone. My son was my best friend and I can’t talk to him and that makes me angry.”

“We were closer than most fathers and sons. Texting is like an addiction to these young people. It tears a family apart,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s program is sponsored by The John T. Gordon Memorial Eagle Scout Scholarship Fund, Vern Heart Insurance Agency and Office of Criminal Justice Services.