Students sign a pledge to avoid distracting behavior while driving as part of a campaign called BADD (Blazers Against Distracted Driving). Staff photo by Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor
Joe White was senior at Washburn Rural High School in Topeka when a bad decision changed his life forever.
White was partying with three friends on homecoming night when they started drinking and behaving recklessly.
White and his friends were inspired by dangerous antics portrayed on television shows like “Jackass,” and on this particular night in 2006 they decided to videotape some of their own stunts.
White jumped from a moving car, tripping on a curb and striking the left side of his head on a sidewalk.
He was transported to a hospital where doctors said they didn’t think he would survive the massive head trauma.
But White began showing daily signs of improvement and after spending a year in a rehabilitation hospital in Nebraska, he slowly learned to walk and talk again, although the right side of his body remains partially paralyzed.
Now White travels to schools and shares his story with thousands of students to encourage them not to drink and drive.
“Don’t do it, for gosh sakes,” White told students at Gardner Edgerton High school during a Jan.. 6 assembly. “It’s not worth it.”
White was the guest of the GEHS SWAG-ER (Students Watching After Gardner Edgerton Routinely) group, which has a mission of preventing tobacco use among students and raising awareness about distracted driving.
Distracted driving can run the range of texting, playing with an iPod, eating food, or talking to a passenger.
“Our goal is to make drivers aware of their responsibility to the road,” said Junior Kyra Burcham, one of the founders of the SWAG-ER organization. We want the students to know what the consequences are to driving while distracted and hopefully, one-by-one, make our highways safer for everyone.
SWAG-ER is launching a campaign called BADD (Blazers Against Distracted Driving) this month and students are being asked to voluntarily sign a pledge to avoid distracting behavior while driving.
The group has also received a $1,000 grant from the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition to help with their efforts.
“The SWAG-ER students are truly committed to protecting their classmates from serious physical and emotional injury,” said Jamie Heller, GEHS counselor.  “They have provided excellent leadership in garnering the grant and I extremely proud of their efforts.”