Students create anti-texting billboards

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – As the Michigan House worked to pass the law against texting while driving, Kendall College students were working on their own projects: designing billboards for a campaign against the dangerous practice.

Professor Ron Riksen gave out the assignment last week to his freshman graphic design class. Some of the students’ ideas include slogans such as “Road Kill” and “TXT YOUR BFF GOODBYE.” One billboard would show a simple photo of a headstone, engraved “Texting and Driving.”

Some students said Wednesday although they were once avid texters behind the wheel, this project — and the law looming in the future — already has changed their behavior.

Freshman Jessica Hook explained her thought process behind the billboard “Don’t Drive InTEXTicated.”

“I think being impaired with alcohol is the same thing while you are texting,” she said. “You don’t know really what’s going on, like I said, I slow way down. It’s hard to know what’s going on when you’re into a conversation.”

The Michigan law characterizes driving while texting as a primary offense, meaning an officer can pull over a driver just for texting — the driver doesn’t have to be breaking another law as well.

But the question is, will the officers do that? Not all police are convinced a new law prohibiting texting while driving is very useful.

“It’s better than nothing, but ultimately, quite frankly is it going to be difficult to enforce? Yes,” said Sgt. Steve LaBrecque of the Grand Rapids Police Department.

It’s hard to see whether a driver is texting while driving, and it may be even harder to prove it, he added. Plus, there’s always the excuse, “I’m not texting. I’m just dialing my phone.”

LaBrecque doesn’t see an end to the dangerous habit.

“It’s distracting (and) it takes attention away from what you should be doing, which is paying attention to what’s going on around you,” he said.

Michigan will join 30 other states with a law against texting while driving.

LaBrecque gives Michigan lawmakers credit for making the law a primary offense. Five states define it as secondary, which the sergeant said would be completely worthless.

“Do I see a bunch of tickets being written, no I don’t,” LaBrecque said. “Does it allow us the ability to take some action if we happen to be able to observe the violation? Yes, it does.”

The first offense carries a $100 fine and any offense after that is a $200 fine. With Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s signature, the law goes into effect July 1.


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