By Tamas Mondovics

In an effort to raise teen driver safety awareness, educate and ultimately save lives, AAA Auto Club, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and Hillsborough County Public Schools teamed up to launch its driver safety, anti-texting initiative, appropriately called ’Friday Night Lights.’

Armed with a public service announcement geared toward safe teen driving and the support of the school resource deputy who launched T-shirts with an anti-texting message into the crowd, the stage was set for students to take the voluntary anti-texting pledge.

“The focus of the campaign is on teen driver safety with the main goal to educate our young people and, of course, save lives,” said AAA Representative John Pecchio.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of people killed in car crashes in 2012 by a distracted driver was 3,328 and an estimated 421,000 people were injured.

“If we can get the message across and save one life, it’s worth it,” Pecchio said.

Newsome High School Resource Deputy Mike Alonso, who did not hesitate to take part in the initiative; agreed.

“Texting and driving is becoming an epidemic, so a campaign like this is extremely valuable,” Alonso said, adding that for the next couple of months, the school will be promoting the initiative encouraging students to take the anti-texting pledge.

Alonso emphasized that the students are very open and responsive to the message, but acknowledged that parents also play a major role in its success.

“Parents lead by example,” he said.

Alonso’s sentiments were validated by the students, including Newsome freshmen Kiley Gagain, Kaitlyn Parisi and Marley Bauer, who took the pledge on the sideline as their team battled the visiting Panthers on the field.

“We definitely want to spread the word at school and around town,” Gagain said, while her classmate Bauer added, “I agree; this is a very important topic as we see so many of our friends text and drive.”

Following its kickoff event, AAA’s Friday Night Lights Anti-Texting initiative was scheduled in advance at three additional schools including Strawberry Crest, (10/24) Steinbrenner (10/31) and Hillsborough High School on Friday, November 7.  For more information, visit

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