Texting while driving is involved in more than 100,000 car accidents each year.
Meanwhile, a recent AT&T survey found 97 percent of teens know texting and driving is dangerous yet doing so is “common” among 75 percent of them.
To combat these trends AT&T gave students at Mountain View High School in Mesa a chance to experience the dangers first-hand.
To underscore its “It Can Wait” pledge drive, the telecommunications company set up simulators last week where students had to make their way around town while receiving and responding to text messages. The results ranged from speeding to driving too slow to weaving — both in a single lane and across all lanes — to being pulled over and many, many accidents. Head-on collisions and rear-end collisions occurred, as did collisions with parked cars, bicyclists and even buildings.
“It’s really tempting to look at the phone when you get a text (while driving),” senior Hailey Glenn, who has her driver’s license, said after she lasted a while on the simulator before she rear-ended another car. “But it’s really hard to keep your eyes on the road and the phone at the same time. Even if you try to do it at red lights, you miss the green light. It’s really easy to veer off.”
Getting the message across can be a daunting task.
Nearly all teens, 89 percent, say they expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes, the AT&T survey showed, and reported seeing their parents text while driving.
Almost half of all adults admit to texting while driving.
“It’s about getting out in front of it,” said local AT&T spokesman Scott Huscher, “getting (to) teens before it comes a bad habit. We hope they develop good habits early and spread the word.”
A car accident caused by a texting driver occurs every five minutes in the U.S.
“The dangers are on par with drinking and driving,” Huscher said. “One day we hope texting and driving will have the same stigma.”
The “It Can Wait” program started in 2009 and teens are encouraged to take the pledge not to text while driving at ItCanWait.com.
“People are impatient; it’s just how they are. They don’t realize (the dangers),” said sophomore Daniel Vidra, who won’t get his license for more than a year. “I’ve bumped into people walking around campus and texting.
“This helped me realize how hard it is to do when you’re driving. My older brother used to do it and I’d ask him to stop. He drives really bad.”
Glenn, who said she turns her phone to silent when she’s driving, also doesn’t like to be a passenger when the driver is texting.
“It drives me crazy,” she said. “I ask them to give me the phone so I can reply for them.”
AT&T offers the Drive Mode app for its Android and Blackberry devices. When the vehicle gets to 25 mph, the app automatically responds to texts and emails and routes calls to voicemail. iPhones with the latest operating system can set to do the same thing.
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