That texting while driving has become a national scourge is not a secret.
Indeed, according to one website, 23 percent of auto collisions - about 1.3 million crashes - involved the use of cellphones.
In response, numerous laws and initiatives have been passed and implemented to curb the use of cellphones while driving.
But 12-year-old West Hartford resident Olivia Krieble, a Kingswood Oxford seventh grader, has come up with a novel approach.
Krieble, dismayed over the number of people she’s seen texting while driving on the highway and streets of West Hartford, created signs that say “Stop Texting We See You.”
The idea is a simple, but effective, one. When a car passenger sees the driver of another vehicle immersed in his or her cellphone, the passenger can flash the sign, which is shaped like a stop sign and affixed to a tongue depressor.
“Even little kids understand stop signs,” Olivia said in an interview on Saturday.
Olivia came up with the idea over the summer and she and her mother, Kim, had 250 signs produced at a local printer.
According to Kim, the printer thought the “Stop Texting We See You” campaign was such a good one, he produced the signs for free.
Olivia and 10-year-old brother Henry, an Aiken fifth grader, cut the signs out and pasted them to the sticks along with a message about the dangers of texting while driving.
“The hope is that people notice that they are texting while driving and stop,” Olivia said. “A lot of people get in car crashes just by looking down for five seconds. You can end someone’s life in those five seconds. It’s horrible that something people do so often can end someone’s life.”
Olivia gave out signs to students and parents at a KO sporting event on Saturday, and Henry plans to do the same at Aiken for the elementary school’s upcoming Fall Festival.
So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People came up to me and said, ‘I always wanted to do something about this,’” Olivia said. “Some people asked for more than one [sign] that they could give to their parents and siblings.”
The campaign has also had an impact within the family.
Fred, Olivia’s father, said that he used to be guilty of looking at his cell phone while driving. But just having the sign in his car is enough of a deterrent to get him to stop.
The next step for the campaign, according to Olivia, is to get people to follow the “Just Stop Texting” Facebook page (link provided) and post their photos of using the signs or catching driving texters in the act.
Olivia also hopes to have an entity - perhaps a business or town department - sponsor the production of more signs.“If you get enough people with the signs saying they won’t tolerate [texting while driving], it can really be powerful,” Fred said.