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HOOVER, Alabama - Up to 8,000 vehicle crashes occur every day in part because of distracted driving, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Hoover officials and students are working this week to help keep one of those crashes from being your own.

The city of Hoover and Hoover school district are partnering with a company called Innocorp and the National Association of School Resource Officers to conduct a campaign this week to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

The Peer Helper student groups at Hoover and Spain Park high schools all this week will be leading activities designed to encourage students not to text, talk on the cellphone, eat or do other things that take their attention away while driving.

"It's become such an issue," said Julia Minopoli, a 17-year-old senior and Peer Helper at Spain Park High School.

The National Safety Council estimates there have been more than 1 million crashes in the United States involving drivers using cell phones or texting so far this year. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows there were an estimated 3,092 fatalities in "distraction-affected crashes" in 2010.

More people are hearing about the dangers of texting while driving these days, but the focus of this campaign is anything that distracts you from driving, such as talking on the phone or eating, Minopoli said. Some people even say they've seen people brushing their teeth on the way to work, she said.

Students at Hoover and Spain Park will be doing activities in their school courtyards and lunchrooms each day to bring attention to the problem. Homerooms will have a contest to decorate their teachers' doors to coincide with the campaign, with the winning homeroom getting a Chick-fil-A biscuit party, said Renee Vance Engates, the Peer Helping coordinator at Spain Park.

Bobby Petrocelli, a national speaker whose wife was killed in the middle of the night when a drunk driver plowed into their bedroom, will be leading assemblies at Hoover High on Thursday and Spain Park High on Friday. The Peer Helper groups from both schools met with him about a month ago.

"It was just life-changing," Minopoli said. "He had you from crying to laughing. It really does make you want to stop doing anything that might cause an accident."

Certain classes at Hoover High on Monday and Tuesday will go to the school's theater to watch a video called "The Last Text," which tells the stories of people who were killed or injured in accidents involving texts.

Each school also will have a tailgate party with a distracted driving theme, pizza, cokes and music prior to their football game this week.

Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey has declared Nov. 5 as "You Matter, Just Drive - Don't Text and Drive Day," encouraging all residents to turn off their phones while driving that day.

The campaign was developed by a company from Verona, Wisc., called Innocorp, which develops products and campaigns designed to save lives, prevent injuries and promote people's health and well-being.

Innocorp partnered with the National Association of School Resource Officers, based in Hoover, for this particular campaign. If it's deemed successful, NASRO plans to take it to other schools across the country, said Mo Canady, a former Hoover police officer who now serves as NASRO's executive director.

Over the last several decades, campaigns to discourage drunk driving and encourage seatbelt use have resulted in significant reductions in people being killed or seriously injured in accidents, Canady said.

"We hope that over the next couple of decades, this becomes just as natural to people not to mess with their cell phones while they're driving," he said.

Minopoli said she hopes this week's activities will encourage people to change their distracted driving habits, or not start in the first place. "If we can just prevent one accident from happening, it will be a successful campaign," she said.

To see more news from Hoover, go to www.al.com/hoover

Published October 28, 2012 at 7:39 PM, updated October 28, 2012 at 10:35 PM

By Jon Anderson | janderson@al.com  al.com

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