by Rebecca Rhodes
Students at WVU Parkersburg reached for a tissue to soften their tears and sniffles Oct. 26 at the #ItCanWait presentation held in the College Theatre.
The presentation was created in honor of Tristan Schulz, the five month old grandson of Billie Shutts, the purchasing assistant for WVU Parkersburg. A distracted driver struck Tristan and his mother Mindy Aug. 31 in Loudoun County Va. The accident resulted in Tristan’s death.
Shutts was the keynote speaker at the event. She recounted the tragic event, the effect it had on her family and asked students if there was a message on their phone that was worth a life.
“I would like to ask the driver, Mr. Miller, one question – ‘What was the message on your cellphone?’ Whatever the message was, it was not worth my grandson and not worth the agony of my daughter,” Shutts said.
Distracted driving – everything from eating behind the wheel, personal grooming, using a phone while driving and adjusting the radio – accounts for 37,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.
“It is scary to see the effects of texting and driving. What’s scarier, is the statistics are growing just as we are sitting here,” Wellness Program Coordinator Pamela Santer said.
According to Santer, there are three, main types of distracted driving; visual (not looking at the road), manual (not touching the wheel) and cognitive (not focusing on driving).
Texting and driving encompasses all three main types of distracted driving. Texting can take a driver’s eyes off the road for a minimum of five seconds. In five seconds, a car going 55 miles per hour will travel the length of a football field.
“We want to remember you by your name, by your student ID, by your employee ID, but we do not want to remember you by a statistic,” Santer said.
At the end of the presentation, Administrative Secretary Elizabeth Knick, stood with students and read a safe driver pledge. To seal the deal, students tied a single blue ribbon around their thumbs.
The blue ribbon was chosen by the Schulz family to represent Tristan because, he was their baby boy.
At the conclusion of the presentation, students rushed to comfort Shutts with hugs and whispers of prayers. One of these students was Anthony Allen.
“Everyone has a family member that they don’t want to see leave this life. Distracted driving is one thing that takes so many lives, and it can be prevented. So, we can save a life,” Allen said.
To sign the pledge online, visit www.SafeTextingCampaign.com