"I want my kids to know that it's okay to not be available sometimes," Courtney wrote. "... By resisting the urge to immediately return a message, they will slowly begin to condition their friends that it's not always a guarantee that they will receive an immediate response."

Courtney reminded parents that texting is a privilege and not a right, and if a teen's texting is excessive, the parent has the right to limit the use of the phone.

"I know one mother who canceled texting all together when it got out of hand and began to impact her daughter's grades," Courtney wrote. "... Teens who know their parents are mindful of their texting habits are less likely to abuse the privilege."

To combat what AT&T calls "an epidemic," it and other cell phone service providers Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are launching a multimillion dollar ad campaign called "It Can Wait," calling people to pledge never to text and drive.

The campaign, at itcanwait.com, will focus on the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which are known as the 100 deadliest days on the roads for teen drivers, AT&T said.

"Texting while driving is a deadly habit that makes you 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash," AT&T's CEO, Randall Stephenson, said.

The campaign will focus on the stories of people who are living with the consequences of texting while driving, including a boy who was 5 years old in 2010 when he was struck while crossing the street by a young woman texting while driving -- and now he's paralyzed from the waist down.

AT&T will continue a texting-while-driving simulator tour, planning about 400 events this year to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving. Participants have to navigate busy streetscapes while a cell phone connected to the simulator flashes incessantly with notifications of a new text message.

Government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, also are working to raise awareness.

"I'm going to take the pledge," 18-year-old Henry Bardales told the Orlando Sentinel. "That split second does matter. It takes that one mistake to change your life."

Courtesy Baptist Press. Used with permission.

Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Publication date: July 2, 2013