'U TXT UR NEXT,' Fairfield Police Explorers warn drivers

Fairfield Police Explorers have a message for you: U TXT UR NEXT.

Any text-savvy teen can translate that message in an instant -- "you text, you're next" -- and the Explorer Post will driving that message home to their peers and adults alike with the help of a $32,500 grant from State Farm insurance and local State Farm agent Steve Boyle.

"I constantly see the impact of distracted driving, and texting while driving," Boyle said Tuesday as he presented the grant check to the post's leaders.

Among the tools the campaign will use are red thumb bands, which are to be worn as a reminder not to text and drive, and a pledge drive asking people to sign a petition saying they will "never jeopardize my life, the lives of others by driving while using a hand-held device or as a passenger, allow other drivers to drive while using a hand-held device."

So far, about 1,000 pledges have been signed, officials said.

Andrew Tisdale, 18, a captain in the Fairfield Explorer Post, doesn't have his driver's license yet, but noted that texting while driving is something "a lot of my friends do ... though less lately."

"They think, `I'm just texting, I can still see the road so it will be OK,' " Tisdale said.

Boyle said the Explorers had to apply for the campaign grant, and will work with Deputy Police Chief Chris Lyddy on a budget for the project.

"This is driven by the Explorers," Boyle said. The Fairfield group was chosen from a group of about 100 applicants throughout the nation.

"We're going to launch a very vigorous media campaign," Lyddy said. "We'll be getting the message out to the youth in our community" through television, Facebook and websites.

Chief Gary MacNamara said motorists make a conscious decision to text while driving. "With all the other difficulties and concerns and distractions while driving, people who text choose to text. What we're trying to do is get people to pledge not to text and drive."

MacNamara said the grant will help promote the safety message. "There's no way we can do this alone," he said. "We know that enforcement alone is not going to solve this problem."

Boyle said that 200,000 accidents a year are caused by a driver who was texting while driving, and Lyddy said the majority of people injured in distracted-driving accidents are under the age of 20.