EUGENE, Ore. — A staggering deadly national statistic is hitting closer to home.
New warnings against texting and driving are now lining the streets of Eugene and Springfield.
The corner of Seneca and 5th in west Eugene is where you can see one of six billboards that have gone up in the past month. It features a chilling statistic about texting and driving with some familiar faces.
The billboards picture 11 high schoolers, but these aren’t paid models or stock photos. These are local teens posing to the catch the attention of drivers below them with one powerful campaign.
“You could hit these kids that drive safe, and it wouldn’t even be their fault, and you’d have that guilt, or you could be a safe driver like us and just not text while you’re driving,” said Tiona Bennett.
“They’ll say well I know Ashley, I know Tiona, whoever. That’s more powerful than a generic high school teenager,” said Bruce Berg, Bruce Berg Photography.
And what better way to get these local teenagers involved than an award-winning Springfield photographer who works with seniors daily.
“Being a photographer that deals a lot with high school teenagers, I thought this would be a good message for me to get out there. And it is the number one cause of death for American teens now. It overtook drunk driving,” Berg said.
Berg teamed up with local businesses and brought on sponsors to pay for and spread this message: a staggering number from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that estimates 11 teens per week fall victim to this deadly combination.
“It’s not even just texting and driving. it’s people that use their phone for Internet or check Facebook or anything. You have to put it all away,” Bennett said.
It’s a solution that could save lives.
“Put your phone in like your backseat or something, or put it on silent or put it in you glove box,” said Thurston High School senior Trenton Jones.
And while it might be fun to have your face on a billboard, it’s creating role models–local highschoolers other kids can look up to.
“All my friends have been like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve seen you on the billboard.’ It brings a smile to my face to know they are actually looking around and being aware of stuff like this,” said Cottage Grove seniors Ahsha Mootz.
A local company, UplinkSpyder Web and Design, came up with the billboard concept and design. Berg solicited sponsorship from Nation’s Mini-Mix, Hyland Auto Sales, and Mercedes-Benz who helped pay for these signs. This is the first year of the campaign and he hopes to do it.