September 8, 2014

Baltimore Sun: Orioles star Matt Wieters has a strong message to kids about texting and driving

As a catcher for the Baltimore Orioles, Matt Wieters is used to being on the receiving end of things. But on Wednesday, Wieters visited River Hill High School in Clarksville to deliver an important message to students: don’t text and drive.

“There’s not one text message worth the kind of pain and suffering that could happen if something goes wrong,” Wieters said addressing the crowd of hundreds of gathered students inside the school’s auditorium.

Wieters visited the school in partnership with AT&T’s nationwide campaign against texting and driving called “It Can Wait.” AT&T is joined in the campaign, which kicked off earlier this summer, by other major cellular service provides including Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile.

As part of the effort, AT&T is asking drivers to sign a pledge against texting and driving. On Wednesday, Wieters encouraged students to take the pledge before signing a pledge board himself that will be displayed at the school.

Wieters told students that the biggest reason to take the pledge is because of the dangers texting and driving presents.

“It’s just not worth it, and I think that’s the main reason you take the pledge,” he said. “It may never happen, but there is a slight chance and possibility that something could go wrong.”

He added: “You want to try and take the ‘what ifs’ out. They are always going to be there, but you never want to be thinking: ‘what if I just put that cell phone down.'”

According to AT&T, texting contributed to more than 200,000 car crashes in 2012, and 49 percent of drivers admitted to texting and driving.

According to the campaign website, one of the biggest things to create change is to speak up. AT&T, using data collected from ConnectSafely.org, reported that 90 percent of people said they would stop texting and driving if a friend asked them to.

As part of the assembly, students watched a video that shared personal stories of people who were seriously injured or killed because of texting while driving.

Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Renee Foose attended the assembly and talked about the importance of the cause.

“I don’t normally come out to student assemblies, but when I heard about this and the reason why we were having it, I said, ‘Absolutely I want to be there, because it is important,'” she said.

Foose admitted that she has texted while driving before, but that she has now taken the pledge not to. She echoed Wieters and encouraged students to do the same.

“I’m making the commitment not to do that, and I want you to make the same commitment. It’s too important,” she said.

Wieters, 28, spent approximately 45 minutes in front of students answering wide-ranging questions about his high school life growing up in South Carolina, his own texting habits and his career with the Orioles.

Some students were given an opportunity to ask Wieters questions of their own, which ranged from “Who on the Orioles do you text the most?” — he said shortstop J.J. Hardy — to “Who is the toughest pitcher to face in the Major Leagues?” — he said Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.

After the assembly, Wieters said working with kids is one of the most rewarding things about being a Major League Baseball player.

“These are our fans, this is our community,” he said. “To be able to get out and see high school kids and get involved in this cause is something special.