FREDERICK — Every day, physicians and staff at Meritus Health Trauma and Emergency Services in Hagerstown see patients who are injured because a driver was not paying attention to the road, according to Mary Rizk, a spokeswoman for Meritus.
With that in mind, Meritus is partnering with Frederick County Public Schools to teach students the dangers of distracted driving.
Meritus’ “Stay Alive! Don’t Text and Drive” campaign kicked off this week at Oakdale High School with 543 of 874 Oakdale students signing the pledge not to text and drive.
Meritus will visit each county high school in April, with a goal of 5,000 students signing the pledge, according to Jennifer Marsh, campaign coordinator for Meritus Health.
There are about 12,500 high school students in Frederick County.
Oakdale junior Michelle Rizk, one of the first students to sign, said she has seen the dangers of texting and driving by watching others do it.
“You see how easy it is to get in an accident,” she said.
Adell Remsberg, also a junior, agreed. She signed the pledge after seeing how distracted her older relatives get while texting and driving.
“It’s really scary. When they drive, it feels like you’re going to crash,” she said.
Meritus started its campaign to end distracted driving in August in Washington County. They visited high school football games and asked students to sign the pledge.
Nearly 3,000 Washington County Public School students signed, Marsh said.
Officials from Frederick County Public Schools, Meritus, Frederick Regional Health System, Frederick County Government, the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and county emergency services all signed the pledge shortly in the Oakdale library.
Given how many people are brought to Meritus because of injuries sustained from crashes involving distracted drivers, Marsh said the medical center’s staff believed it was their duty to inform people of the danger.
In 2010, 1,545 crashes in Frederick County were the result of distracted driving, with drivers age 16 to 24 responsible for about 25 percent of those.
It is hard to quantify how many injuries were due to texting and driving because people are not always willing to admit how they were distracted, Marsh said.
“No text message is worth a life,” he said.