Texting simulator drives home safety

Story by James Meeks

Video by Tiffany Smith

AT&T has started the “It Can Wait” movement to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving, allowing students to experience the dangers through a driving simulator.

The simulator came to CU on Oct. 16 as part of AT&T’s campaign. PEER Awareness, an organization committed to the health and wellness of students across the nation, provided the machine.

Deano Cox, regional manager of external affairs for AT&T, explained how texting and driving is endangering millions of Americans both on and off the road.

“Our campaign is focused on a simple and powerful message: that nothing is worth risking your life over, so a text can wait,” Cox said. “This event is being held throughout the entire nation, and AT&T has a full core press in educating teens and parents in the dangers of texting while driving.”

Cox explained that AT&T has developed a downloadable app for AT&T customers. The company is also encouraging other cell phone companies to develop their own to app to reduce accidents caused by drivers who text.

“When person texts you, the app automatically sends them an automated message saying that you are driving and will respond at their earliest convenience,” Cox said. “The app sends the automated message when the vehicle is going over 25 mph.”

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/52653768[/vimeo]

Lieutenant Joe Williams of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said he sees people driving while on their phones all the time. With current laws, Williams explained that he cannot simply pull someone over if they are on their phone and that accidents caused by texting and driving have gone up significantly over the years.

“Your requirement as an operator of a vehicle is to pay attention 100 percent of the time,” Williams said. “We don’t want to knock on anybody’s door; I have had to do it numerous times and so have a lot of other troopers across the state that their loved one has been killed or seriously injured in an accident.”

According to PEER Awareness in 2008, distracted drivers directly caused 37 percent of all collisions. The largest proportion of these collisions involved young, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20.

As students learned more about the dangers of texting and driving, the simulator showed students how many times they swerved lanes, ran off the road and hit other vehicles and pedestrians.

Physical Education major Xavier Landrum was one of the many students that went through the simulator.

Landrum explained that during the simulator he had to text and drive simultaneously, which was unfamiliar territory for him.

“I never text that much while I drive,” Landrum said. “Usually, I come to a complete stop at a red light when I text, so it was different

After his run, Landrum realized how dangerous texting while driving can become when full attention is not on the road.

According to a recent PEER Awareness study, 89 percent of American adults believe that texting while driving is, “distracting, dangerous and should be outlawed.” The Oprah Winfrey Show has also raised awareness of the dangers of texting while driving, and 22 states have banned it.

Senator Don Barrington, Chairman of Public Safety and Homeland Security, also attended the event to raise awareness, He explained that it is not just the driver at risk, but the people around them as well.

“It just takes a split second to run over someone, run into something, hurt yourself or kill someone,” Barrington said. “I appreciate AT&T bringing it down and setting up the equipment for the students at Cameron University”

PEER Awareness and AT&T will continue touring the country with their simulator to keep combating texting and drive. More information about texting and driving and its dangers can be found at www.peerawareness. com.

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