CHARLESTON, W.Va. - George Washington High School students joined Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Wednesday morning to encourage drivers to keep their hands off their cellphones while driving.
"You shouldn't do it," senior Marcus Taylor said. "It's bad and most teenagers nowadays wreck because of it."
Taylor and about a dozen classmates joined Tomblin in signing the governor's safe driver pledge, in which drivers promise to avoid using a cellphone while driving unless a hands-free device is being used.
The event was planned as part of AT&T's national "It Can Wait" texting and driving campaign. But for the GW students, the event had a more personal meaning.
The group was just a handful of those at the school still mourning the loss of Drew Morton, 14, a freshman who died after being ejected from a friend's car Sunday morning.
Morton was a passenger in a 2006 Lexus convertible coupe driven by classmate Reed Deer, 15. Deer was driving the car despite having only a learner's permit, which requires that a licensed adult driver be in the vehicle. No adult was with the two teens.
Police said Deer was driving on Quarry Ridge Road about 11:15 a.m. Sunday when he lost control of the car and hit a utility pole and a tree before rolling over the hillside. Morton was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the convertible, which had its top down.
Charleston police on Sunday evening charged Deer with negligent homicide.
Both Deer and Morton played on the GW football team, and senior teammate Dustin Crouser said Morton's death has shaken the entire school.
"It's definitely changed us," Crouser said. "School's been gloomy. We were all close with him; he played football with some of the guys here - it's definitely changed our mindset about being safe while driving."
Authorities have not said texting or using a cellphone while driving played a role in Sunday's accident. Crouser, who is dating Morton's sister, said keeping your hands off the phone is just the safe thing to do.
"Texting and driving has been bad lately," he said. "It's time to stop it, and it's good that we have a law now that it's illegal."
Tomblin worked with the Legislature this year to pass a bill banning any handheld cellphone use while driving.
Eliminating texting while driving was the law's key focus. Studies have shown a texting driver is 23 times more likely to have an accident than a non-distracted driver.