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Fort Mill High students vow to 'W8 2 TXT'

Ashonti Nash, like many of her Fort Mill High classmates, made a promise on Friday that she knows will be tough to keep.

She's going to give up texting - at least while she's behind the wheel.

"Oh my gosh, it's going to be so hard," said Nash, who has yet to get her license. But "it's really important. Too many people have died."

Dozens of Fort Mill students signed on to a new effort called "W8 2 TXT Don't abbreviate your life." The S.C. Department of Public Safety and Subway restaurants partnered to create the program urging young drivers (and their parents) to focus on the road, not their phones.

"It's an issue that's been growing in South Carolina and the nation," Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Billy Elder said.

Officers cite statistics showing crashes are the leading cause of American teenage deaths. They point to a Virginia Tech transportation study that found drivers who text on the road are 23 times more likely to crash.

"The distracted driving issue hit home for us when a tragic texting collision impacted our Subway restaurant family," said Ali Saifi, a Subway executive. "We want everyone to understand the dangers of distracted driving and realize there isn't a call, text or status update that can't wait."

Fort Mill High is one of six South Carolina schools to host a kickoff celebration to draw attention to the program.

S.C. Highway Patrol troopers and Subway representatives encouraged students to sign a pledge and handed out glow-in-the-dark bracelets bearing W8 2 TXT.

Any school can take part by signing up at the website www.w8t2txtpledge.com.

The campus with the highest percentage of student pledges wins a sandwich lunch catered by Subway.

Students on Friday heard from Ashley Marriah, an accident survivor.

Marriah, 20, was driving on a Greenville highway to pick up her mother from the airport, when she missed the exit. She grabbed her phone and texted her mom to say she would be late.

"When I looked up, I saw a gray wall," she said. Marriah swerved, nearly hitting a car, then fish-tailed. Her sport utility vehicle flipped six or seven times, she said.

Marriah was critically injured.

Her story was a wake-up call for students.

"It makes you think," sophomore Kyle Baker said. "It was inspiring."

Like Nash, Baker admits it will be tough to resist his phone's message alert.

"I'm always on my phone checking Twitter, Facebook, texts," he said. "I always want to be in the loop."

But he plans to keep his eyes off his phone until he pulls over.

"I'll answer it then," he said. Because "anything can happen at any time."

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