Wrecked vehicle offers a graphic warning

David Hicks (left) and Johnny Hollifield (right) stand in front of the crashed vehicle, which warns drivers against distracted driving.

A local body shop is taking part in a national initiative against distracted driving.

On Sept. 19, a summit was held in Washington, D.C. kicking off Drive 4 Pledges Day to inspire teens to take action and be leaders in their communities to end texting and driving.

This summit caught the attention of David Hicks, the owner of Auto Tech Collision Center in Nebo, and his office manager, Tanya Williams, and led to the shop campaigning locally to spread the word against people using their cell phones while driving.

J&T Used and New Auto Parts donated a crashed vehicle that will be strategically placed around the county, making drivers aware of the dangers of distracted driving.

The damaged automobile is currently located outside of Car Quest at the intersection of the five lane and U.S. 70 in front the old Ford building. A banner hangs on the destroyed car reading, “One text or call could wreck it all.”

“We were thinking about kids going back to school, and how we knew we would get busier,” said Williams. “Teens are always messing with their phone or iPod, and most of the cars we see are totaled from distracted driving.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 3,331 people were killed in vehicle crashes and 387,000 people were injured by distracted drivers in 2011.

In North Carolina, it is illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use a cell phone for calling or text messaging, and it is illegal for drivers of all ages to text message while driving. Law enforcement is allowed to pull anyone over for suspected text messaging while driving, which can result in high fines.

“We see a lot of accidents from distracted driving, enough to where we are willing to say we would rather have your business in another way,” said Williams.

According to the National Safety Council, traffic crashes are the leading killer of teens, and drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

“We don’t want people to get hurt just to get business,” Hicks said. “When people see something like this car tore up, they’re hopefully going to think twice.”

A survey commissioned by AT&T found that while 97 percent of teens know texting while driving is dangerous, 43 percent of them admit to sending a text while driving and 75 percent say the practice is common among their friends.

Johnny Hollifield, owner of Hollifield’s Auto Repair, along with Car Quest agreed to let the crashed vehicle sit on their property to warn drivers.

“It’s a good idea because texting and driving is prevalent all around and you can see it locally any time of the day,” Hollifield said.

For more information on distracted driving laws and prevention, visit the Governor’s Highway Safety Association website at ghsa.org.