EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


November 22, 2011

Haverhill teens learn dangers of texting while driving


A young man who had been convicted of killing a bicyclist because he was texting behind the wheel of his car described the "self-hatred" from which he suffers.

Another young man was shown walking very slowly with the aid of a therapist at a rehabilitation hospital. In slow, halting speech, he recalled — and regretted — "the text message that changed my life." Taking his eyes off the road for a few seconds was all it took to inflict a serious brain injury on him.

"I was normal," he said in a forlorn tone.

Principal Bernard Nangle invited the students to sign a pledge, "We Will Not Text and Drive," and they took him up on it.

"Don't do it," urged Morgan Devoe, a senior who plans to attend college next year, after signing the pledge. She said she has known Deveau since middle school.

It's "crazy," she said, that a texting-while-driving tragedy happened right in her hometown and affected someone she knows.

Julia Rodriguez, another senior, said if one of her friends starts to text while driving, she takes the cell phone and says, "I'll text for you."

"I don't like it," she said of the practice.

"Texting and driving is dangerous. Nobody should do it," Etel Smolnitsky said. Etel takes it a step further, saying people should not talk on their cell phones and drive.

Even if her own mother starts talking on the phone behind the wheel, Etel grabs the phone away from her, saying "Nyet!" Her parents came to the United States from Russia.

Etel aspires to become a mechanical engineer and has her sights set on either MIT or UMass Lowell next year.

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