Summit High students told to ‘Put it Down’
Shelly Forney lost her 9-year-old daughter, Erica, on Thanksgiving Day of 2008. Erica was riding her bike home from school when she was struck by a woman looking at her cellphone while driving a Ford Expedition. Not only did Forney have to endure the loss of her child, but now she must relive her family’s ordeal every time she tells her story.
Forney – a Fort Collins resident – is a founding board member of FocusDriven, an advocacy group for victims of motor vehicle crashes involving drivers using cellphones. The organization’s mission is to support victims and their families, and to increase public awareness about the dangers of using a cellphone while driving.
In an emotional presentation on Thursday, Forney urged students at Summit High School to avoid their phones while operating a vehicle.
“It’s a hard story to tell, but she’s telling it and she’s changing lives,” said Holly Adnan, director of ThinkFirst at Summit Medical Center. ThinkFirst – which collaborated with FocusDriven to give the presentation – is an award-winning public education injury prevention program that targets young adults and children in Summit and Park counties.
Students were first shown a short video about teenagers who have died, or have killed someone else, because of texting and driving. Forney then stood before the crowd to tell her story, tearing up while she did.
“It is incredibly heartbreaking. She was the little sunshine of our lives,” she said. “A phone took my child’s life. I hope you grasp what I’m trying to share with you today and put a stop to it.”
Forney told the students teenagers are four times more likely to be in a car crash than any other group, and said driving is the most dangerous thing a person can do before their 30th birthday. She said cellphones impair drivers more than a drunk driver with a .08 blood-alcohol content, and that the number of cellphone-related car fatalities a week is equivalent to the crashing of a large plane.
Afterwards, Jen Kagan, a ThinkFirst volunteer, said she thought the presentation was effective.
“I heard a lot of sniffles,” she said.
SHS student Mikaela Meister said she has always been against using a cellphone while driving. She said the presentation will make her more vigilant about warning those around her.
“I thought it was really touching,” she said.
Forney – who has testified against the use of cellphones at Capital Hill in Denver – has given about 50 presentations in the past two years, mostly to high schools. She has also appeared on Oprah. She asks everyone to sign the nonprofit’s pledge, “Put it Down.”
“I have yet to do my presentation and have someone say, ‘No, I’m not going to do it,'” she said. “My whole purpose is to drive that this has become an epidemic into people’s minds, educate them, and change the social norm. That’s what FocusDriven is out to do. Using your phone in your car in any aspect, you’re putting your life at risk.”
For more info about FocusDriven, visit http://www.focusdriven.org
For more information about ThinkFirst, visit http://www.summitmedicalcenter.org/thinkfirst
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