It can wait.
About 500 seniors at Golden Valley High School saw a presentation Tuesday meant to make them consider whether it is wise to drive a car and send text messages at the same time.
Four representatives from telecommunications giant AT&T spoke for about an hour and showed videos decrying texting behind the wheel. They also let a half-dozen volunteers use a simulator to try to drive and text at the same time.
Veronica Welch of Merced, an AT&T manager, had students assembled in the school gym retrieve and display their last text messages. She then posed a poignant question.
"Is that worth dying for?" she asked.
Lt. Andre Matthews of the Merced Police Department said officers issued 39 citations for texting while driving and an additional 214 tickets for driving while on a cell phone from January 2012 to this month.
Four traffic accidents were attributed to cell phone use and six people were injured, Matthews said. Thankfully, no one was killed.
Welch said she is an expert at text-messaging, boasting that she can text in the dark or upside down. She said sending text messages is convenient but vowed years ago not to do it while driving.
"Thank God I learned from other people's examples instead of something happening to me," Welch said. "It (texting) can be life-changing. You are 23 times more likely to crash when texting; it's not worth it."
Eric Valencia, 17, said he doesn't use his cell phone while driving and took the pledge not to do it.
"It was really interesting," Valencia said of the presentation. "You can take someone else's life away."
Erin Gonzales, 17, said she sometimes has sent text messages while driving, but won't do it anymore. "More people should watch it (video) so they don't text and drive," he said.
One of the "volunteer" drivers swerved into the right lane and crashed his simulator car while taking his eyes momentarily off the road.
Another student veered over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic. One ran a red traffic light while distracted and another slammed into the side of a bus while texting.
AT&T surveyed about 1,200 teenagers about their texting habits.
Sixty-one percent said they glanced at text messages and 43 percent said they texted while driving. Eighty-five percent of teenagers expect a response to a text within five minutes.
The phone company has a free mobile application that blocks texting while driving, Welch said.
Williams said teenagers are less experienced in dealing with driving distractions, such as talking with friends, using the cell phone or eating, than older drivers.
It has been against the law since 2009 in California to use a cell phone while driving. In March, this ban was extended to using a cell phone to access GPS maps while driving, Williams said.
Welch and her associates all wore black T-shirts with the saying "It can wait" on the back. Welch said the anti-texting presentations began last year at Merced and Atwater high schools.
"Those texts can cost you your life," Williams said. "Driving is a very complicated skill, without adding additional traffic, friends talking or phone calls."
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.