“TextLess Live More” is a national campaign founded in honor of Merritt Levitan, an 18 year-old girl who knew how to live life to the fullest and appreciate the world around her. Levitan was fatally struck by a driver who was using their phone at the time while on a bike trip with Overland, a company based in Williamstown which gives teenagers an opportunity to partake in outdoor adventures. The accident occurred in Arkansas on July 2, 2013, and Levitan died the next day due to her injuries.
On Monday October 6, 2014, students across the country ceased all cell phone use for the duration of the school day in order to live in the moment and raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving. The goal of the day was to have students step completely away from their phones for a day of no texting, gaming or checking the time.
Seniors Lucy Barrett and Ian Brink organized and coordinated the incorporation of the campaign at Mt. Greylock. Though the national “TextLess Live More” day is on July 3, the day that Levitan died, students will be encouraged to turn off their cell phones on the first Monday of every month in order engage more with the world. Having participated in Overland trips previously, Barrett understood how Levitan’s death “hit their family friends involved in Overland very hard.” When she heard about the national campaign she “wanted to bring it to our school and just be a part of it.”
In an opening meeting on Monday, October 6, facing a packed auditorium, Barrett and Brink thanked everyone for their pledges to turn away from their phones for a day. They explained that the average teenager spends roughly three hours per day on a phone looking at social media or texting. In total those hours add up to about four years of a human lifespan. They then showed a video starring popular actor Giancarlo Esposito from the hit series “Breaking Bad” discussing various other ways in which three hours can be spent. The meeting ended with the request for everyone to turn their phones off at that time and refrain from using them until the end of the school day.
Distracted driving is a very current issue in our culture supporting a fast-paced and screen-oriented lifestyle. Every day in the United States alone, 11 teenagers die in accidents related to texting while driving and cell phone use drastically increases the chances of getting in an accident according to textinganddrivingsafety.com. As an example of the way cell phone use can impair driving, on Thursday, October 3rd, a head-on crash occurred and caused a third vehicle to roll over on West Street in Pittsfield. It was later revealed that the teenage driver who caused the crash was driving while distracted by a cell phone.
It is the hope of Barrett and Brink that students will continue to participate in the “TextLess Live More” days in the coming months. The next campaign days will not garner as much attention as the first. Future dates will be posted around the school and students will have the option to participate or not.