In celebration of the national “No Text on Board Pledge Day” Wednesday, Grady High School and numerous Atlanta area law enforcement and government officials joined forces with wireless provider AT&T at the Midtown school to tackle a dangerous practice that puts millions of Americans at risk: texting while driving.
Students at Grady had a rare opportunity for a first-hand experience highlighting the dangers of texting while driving through use of a virtual texting and driving simulator, in addition to an eye-opening informational session.
The state-of-the-art, full-sized vehicle simulator allows a student to be seated in a stationary car that is connected to sensors enabling the driver to use the steering wheel and pedals while wearing virtual reality goggles. The driver then navigates a virtual road course while being asked to send and receive text messages in real time on a mobile device. The driver’s performance on the road is shown to the audience on a monitor outside the car.
While the event was designed to directly expose students to the dangers of texting and driving, it also allowed community leaders to further extend the message that texting while driving can certainly wait.
“Our goal is to save lives,” said AT&T Georgia State President Sylvia Russell. “We hear from far too many people whose lives have been forever changed by a texting-while-driving accident, and together, we want to spread the word about how deadly a single text can be. We’re challenging everyone in Georgia to take the pledge to never text and drive and to make it a lifelong commitment.”
Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, has described texting and driving as a “national epidemic,” and said it is a problem that can and must be solved.
“AT&T’s ‘It Can Wait’ campaign is a model for everyone who cares about safety,” Blackwood said. “We will continue our state-wide efforts to spread the word that no text or email is worth the risk.”
Other speakers included Anna Leigh Stewart, Miss Georgia Peach, who was hit head-on in a texting accident and Brian Otiz-Moreno, an AT&T employee who lost his son to a texting accident last year.
Texting ranks as the No. 1 mode of communication among teens, and those between the ages of 12 and 17 text 60 times a day on average – up from 50 in 2009. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent, at 55 mph, of driving the length of a football field, blind.
A recent AT&T survey found that 97 percent of teens say they know that texting while driving is dangerous. The survey also found:
- 75 percent of teens surveyed say that texting while driving is “common” among their friends;
- Almost all teens (89 percent) expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less;
- And 77 percent of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.
But technology can help: 89 percent of teens said a phone app to prevent texting and driving – like AT&T DriveMode – would be an effective way to get them or their friends to stop texting and driving.
Since Aug. 15, when AT&T announced plans for No Text on Board Pledge Day:
- A national ad campaign, aired during the Olympics, shared personal stories of those whose lives were impacted by a texting-while-driving crash.
- More than 140 organizations including AT&T have pledged to help share a simple message: no text is worth dying for.
- Social media reach through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has topped 150 million.
Making a difference
- Polling shows that awareness of AT&T’s It Can Wait message has doubled since the beginning of June 2012, and one in three people say texting while driving messages have an impact on their habits.
- More than 400,000 no-texting-while-driving pledges have been logged through ItCanWait.com, social sites including Facebook, text-to-pledge and events.
- The AT&T DriveMode app has been downloaded more than 80,000 times.
Going forward, the campaign will further harness social connections and the power of technology to help curb texting while driving.
- Today, the company is introducing an online simulation experience at ItCanWait.com that allows anyone to get behind the wheel, virtually, and see what happens when you text and drive.
- Through pledges taken at Causes.com, AT&T will contribute up to $50,000 to NOYS.
- The company is poised to release an auto-on/off enhancement to its AT&T DriveMode™, a free safe-driving app, on Sep. 30.
- AT&T has challenged wireless device makers and app developers to equip every new device with a pre-loaded, no-text-and-drive solution.
Tapping into the power of social media and personal networks to create a national movement to swear off texting while driving, the It Can Wait effort urges drivers to visit www.ItCanWait.com, where they can pledge not to text and drive, and share their pledge with others via Twitter (#ItCanWait) and Facebook. It also offers a host of educational resources and information on the issue – including a documentary featuring families impacted by texting and driving accidents that has been viewed more than 3 million times.
AT&T first began its “It Can Wait” campaign discouraging texting and driving in 2009. The website www.itcanwait.com provides an opportunity to take the don’t-text-and-drive pledge. It
also offers a host of educational resources and information on the issue – including a documentary featuring families impacted by texting and driving accidents that has been viewed more than 3 million times.
Among those attending Wednesday's ceremony included:
Dr. Dave Propst, Asst. Principal, Grady High School
Dr. Vincent Murray, Principal, Grady High School
Ms. Kathleen Washington, Athletic Director, Grady HighSchool
Ms. Judy Agerton, AT&T Regional Vice President
Mr. Keith Holmes, AT&T VPGM
Mr. Dennis Boyden, AT&T Regional Director
Mr. Harris Blackwood, Governor’s Office of Highway Safety
Mr. Brian Ortiz-Moreno, AT&T Employee
Ms. Kristin Bernhard, Governor’s education policy advisor
Miss Anna Leigh Stewart, Miss Georgia Peach
Ms. Brenda Muhammad – BoE District 1
Mrs. Cecily Harsh-Kinnane BoE District 3
Dr. Howard Grant , BoE Board Administrator
Pat Gardner, State Representative
Mr. Kaziem Woodbury, VOX Teen Communications
Sheriff Ted Jackson, Fulton County
Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta City Council
Councilman Kwaanza Hall, Atlanta City Council
Councilman Aaron Watson, Atlanta City Council
Mr. Mikkal Murunga, APS - External Affairs Manager
Major Whitmire, Zone Five Commander APD