NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – A powerful, potentially life-saving message was brought to Northbridge High School students Thursday by Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.
One-third of all teen deaths in Worcester County are due to auto accidents, he said, and distractions, including texting, are the leading cause of those accidents.
Those statistics prompted his power-point presentation, “The Last Text.’’
“One of the hardest things I do is to sit down with families because of traffic homicides,’’ Early told the students. “Many of the drivers in these crashes are kids just like you,’’ he said.
When he became district attorney six years ago and began to analyze what his office does, Early said, he realized that much of the tragedy the district attorney responds to is preventable.
In the 1970s, traffic accidents were often due to alcohol. In 1972, there were 55,000 traffic facilities, a number reduced though awareness and enforcement to 32,000 in 2011.
But with technology, law enforcement agencies are seeing those numbers creep up again because of distracted driving – distractions such as texting while driving, which is now illegal in Massachusetts.
“The Last Text’’ features the words and faces of police officers and family members and highlight the actual last texts of teens who died as a result.
Those messages included: “Where u at,’’ “LOL,’’ “Where r.’’
“Senseless’’ said one young man in the video, who struck and killed a bicyclist because of texting.
Another teen, clearly disabled, said he used to be able to drive, go for a walk, run around town, had a job.
“I was normal. One text message changed my life forever,’’ he said.
One young woman will forever blame herself for her sister’s death because she died reading a text she’d sent her.
Paul R. Jarvey, community outreach director for the District Attorney’s Office, presented a slide show highlighting recent fatal accidents involving teens in Worcester County, all of them caused because the teens were distracted by a cell phone, texting, or teen passengers.
One teen died in Millbury, four died in Leicester, a teen and a 27-year-old passenger died in Sutton.
Jarvey noted that the average text takes eyes off the road for about five seconds. “Traveling at 55 mph while texting, a driver will travel one football field,’’ he said.
Another factor in teen traffic deaths is seatbelts, Jarvey said. Two-thirds of all teens killed in traffic accidents weren't wearing them.
Teens were advised to do a few things: Put their cell phones into the glove box or back seat when they’re driving, wear seat belts, and police their parents to do the same.