Justin A. Rice for Boston.comBy Justin A. Rice, Town Correspondent
Speaking to the senior class at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School this morning about texting while driving, U.S. Congressman John F. Tierney told nearly 480 students that he represented several victims of distracted driving when he practiced law before joining congress.
“I also come at this as someone who had to tell their parents, their son, my brother, had died in a car accident,” Tierney said. “That’s not a pleasant experience. It bothers me today to think about it. So don’t think about yourselves, that you’re immune, nothing is going to happen to you. Think of your parents being told something has happened to you.
"Think of the fact that you might have a little sibling in the car with you and that you might be driving home or your friend and having to face their parents and whatever you had to do at the time was so important that you put not only your life but their life at risk. I think that probably brings it home more because a lot of times you don’t think of other people more than you think of yourselves. Think of the impact on them and on your own and carrying that baggage around with you every single day.”
Tierney was speaking at AT&T's “It Can Wait” Anti-Texting program along with Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett and other officials. Blodgett told the students about a Haverhill teen who will go to trial next month for causing a fatal car crash because he was allegedly texting.
Blodgett told the students that authorities can check cell phone records if they are in a serious motor vehicle accident to determine if they were texting at the time of the accident.
“That will be gotten voluntarily or through a search warrant,” he said. “That’s often the biggest evidence used to determine if you will be charged with a criminal offense and prosecuted. I hope that doesn’t happen but now you know.”
The students also watched a video that told stories about victims of fatal texting and driving car crashes, including a high school senior in Missouri who was killed the day before graduation. After watching the video, Peabody High senior Jenna Sacramone said the message was sent loud and clear, despite the fact that teens can sometimes be numb to the message since adults drive it home so often.
“The more they do it the more in sticks in your brain,” Sacramone, 17, said. “Especially with the girl [in the video] who couldn’t go to graduation; it’s hard to think about that. That could be me. You send a text and think it’s insignificant. I know for me it made an impact. At the same time a kid could hear it a million times and it wouldn’t change anything.
“For me it’s not worth it.”
After the video Sacramone and her classmates lined up to sign a board that served as a pledge that they will not text and drive. Since AT&T’s anti-texting program launched in March 2010, more than 21,600 consumers have taken the pledge not to text and drive on AT&T’s Facebook page.
Other speakers at the event included State Representative Theodore C. Speliotis (D- Danvers), Peabody Mayor Edward A. "Ted" Bettencourt, Jr., David Mancuso, AT&T Regional Vice President of External Affairs and Herbert W. Levine, Peabody school’s interim superintendent.
“I was looking at all of your faces while others were talking and, I don’t know, thinking back when I was in high school, that we would’ve been as attentive and polite and as courteous as you’ve been,” Tierney told the students. “I appreciate the fact that you seem to be serious about this and take it the right way.
“You’ve got a lot to give to this world. You’ve got a lot to give to your families and we want to make sure that happens.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at email@example.com.