AT&T, NSU educate teens about texting while driving

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- In an effort to educate younger drivers about the hazards of texting while driving, AT&T and Northeastern State University brought a driving simulator to the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center parking lot on Nov. 9.

Part of AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign to discourage texting behind the wheel, the simulator was driven by students from NSU, Tahlequah High School and other area high schools.

"The simulator provides the student with an experience that shows the effects of texting while driving," said Craig Cromley, area manager of external affairs for AT&T Oklahoma. "They took a survey before getting in the simulator and another after they exited. We wanted to see if their attitudes change toward texting and driving after being in the simulator."

Most students said they were already aware of the dangers of texting while driving, but said their understanding was enhanced by the simulator.

"I really was surprised by how difficult it was to look at my phone and then look back up and figure out where I was going," said Ali Nolan, a junior from Keys High School. "I will definitely make sure my friends aren't driving and texting while I am in the car."

Ashlee Parker, a junior at Fort Gibson High School agreed that texting behind the wheel was a dangerous multi-task.

"You had to look at the road, maintain your speed, obey traffic laws, all while texting," she said. "The simulation showed it was pretty much impossible to text, drive and be safe all at the same time."

Having issued a proclamation from his office declaring Nov. 9 "No Text on Board - Pledge Day," Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols attended the morning simulator session.

"You take your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds for every text that you send," Nichols said. "In an area where you have many of rural roads with blind curves and a growing Tahlequah with urban-type traffic, five seconds is too long and could be very costly. We're thankful to AT&T and NSU to take the time to put the effort and resources into educating people on the dangers of texting and driving."

Also in attendance was NSU President Steve Turner, who said Northeastern needed to be involved with a campaign to discourage texting on the road.

"Not long ago there were fewer opportunities for a driver to be distracted," he said. "But cell phone technology, as wonderful as it is, has created a paradigm of urgency. Before they text while driving, people need to remember they are in a bullet that weighs a ton or more and needs one's undivided attention while operating it. Our students, and people of all ages, need to be engaged drivers and not distracted drivers."

AT&T and NSU invited three groups of 25-30 students. They heard opening remarks from Cromley and Jason Jessie, director of high school and college relations, and watched a short video produced by AT&T for the "It Can Wait" campaign.

"We will ask these students to take the campaign back to their campuses," Cromley said. "The long range plan is that high school and college students take part in the efforts to stop texting and driving."

A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute indicated those texting while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident. By contrast, other studies suggest drivers with a 0.08 percent blood alchohol level – legally intoxicated in Oklahoma – are 4-6 times more likely to be involved in a mishap.

A survey of teen drivers by AT&T found that 97 percent of teens realize texting while driving is dangerous, but 43 percent admit to doing so. Furthermore, 61 percent of teens say they may check or glance at their phones while driving.

Because texting has become such a prevalent method of communication between young people – 66 percent of teens surveyed by AT&T send more than 20 texts a day – a delayed response can be considered rude. Nearly 90 percent of teens said they expect responses to their texts within five minutes, which applies a social expectation to respond when texted.

"We see texting and driving as a serious social issue that has arisen with new technologies," Cromley said. "We want these dangers understood by everybody, not just high school and college students."

For more information about the AT&T campaign to educate about the dangers of texting while driving, visit itcanwait.com.

Published: 11/12/2012 3:19:18 PM

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