Lake Forest teen on mission to stop distracted driving

October 12, 2010 (WILMETTE, Ill.)

Karina Kedo knows firsthand about the damage distracted drivers can cause because she was hit by one while riding her bike.

Kedo was not seriously injured in that accident three years ago, but the crash did leave a lasting impact on her. It inspired her mission to stop others from texting or talking on the phone while behind the wheel.

There are both high-profile campaigns and laws on the books to stop drivers from using their cell phones behind the wheel. Now, a high school student has joined the effort, with a new program that targets the next generation of drivers.

"It seems like people don't realize how much of a danger it really is, especially new drivers," Kedo said.

Kedo is a high school senior who has been driving more than a year and admits to having texted while behind the wheel, even though she had a close call a few years ago with a distracted driver.

"I had the right of way, but a lady talking on her phone turned right on red and ended up hitting me," Kedo said, "and she admitted that she didn't look because she held her phone to the right side of her face."

Kedo decided to draw attention to the dangers of driving while distracted and started a program called "S.T.A.T.I.C. Now." S.T.A.T.I.C. stands for "stop talking and texting in cars."

Through various fundraisers, and a law firm sponsorship, Kedo raised more than $20,000 to buy two virtual driving simulators. Tuesday, her classmates at Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette experienced driving while using a cell phone.

"I'm sure I was trying to be safe about it, but there's not really a safe way to do it," said Katie Neville, student.

A few say the simulator has discouraged them from using their cell phones behind the wheel.

"It was really tricky because things came out of nowhere, uou don't realize how much is going on," said Ellie Heinrich, student.

Kedo's efforts are supported by Secretary of State Jesse White, who Tuesday kicked off Teen Driver Safety Week.

"It's a win-win situation for all of us, in that she's getting the word out with the simulator that you can't text and drive at the same time," said White.

As for Kedo, she now makes it a point to not use her phone in the car.

"That's why I put mine in the backseat," Kedo said. "I just ignore it. It's very tempting, but it's just self-discipline, and after that it's not that bad."

The simulators will be in Regina Dominican the rest of the week, where students can try them out, then they will be made available to other interested schools.

According to the Automobile Association of America, nearly half of all teen drivers have texted while driving.

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