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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

‘It Can Wait’ stops at Dunbar, provides firsthand look at texting and driving dangers

By Will Palmer
KyForward intern

AT&T’s “It Can Wait” public awareness campaign to stop texting and driving drove the point home for about 60 teens at Dunbar High School in Lexington Tuesday. The wireless provider brought a simulator to the school to give the teens a firsthand look at the dangers of texting and driving.

KyForward intern Will Palmer, a 2012 graduate of Transylvania University, was one of those who took a “drive” in the simulator – and one who was surprised at how badly he performed. Here is his account of the experience.

Yesterday afternoon at approximately 4:13 p.m. I stepped into a car and got into my first wreck. What was the reason for my deadly wreck? Texting and driving.

Luckily for everyone involved this was not a real accident, but my first attempt at the AT&T texting and driving simulator set up at Dunbar High School as part of its “It Can Wait” campaign.

KyForward intern Will Palmer took a “drive” in the simulator – and was surprised at how badly he performed.

When arriving at Dunbar I walked up to the simulator with a slight feeling of optimism. As a 22-year-old, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that texting and driving is a normal occurrence, not a rarity. Needless to say I was humbled by my experience. Getting in the simulated car and putting the headset on, my feeling of optimism quickly faded to anxiety.

The drive started out simple enough, driving on a two-lane road with a speed limit of 45. But as soon as texting was thrown into the equation, things quickly went downhill. My speed started to increase and driving straight seemed an impossible task. My anxiety was confirmed when I ran a red light and drove straight into a parked car, barely missing a pedestrian in the process.

As I got out of the car, I was stunned at how badly I preformed and how difficult it really was to text and drive. After reliving my wreck on a television screen several times, I witnessed countless teenagers attempt the same feat with the same amount of confidence. One after one, they met the same fate with variations on location and speed.

Before taking part in the simulation I would have told you that texting and driving was a danger, but not one as pressing as drinking and driving or other driving hazards. Now, after what can only be described as a surprising and sobering experience, I can understand the amount of effort AT&T is going through to enlighten the nation to the severity of this issue. And I can assure you that my texting and driving problem will disappear rapidly and forever.

The simulator works in the same fashion as actual driving, requiring the driver to use the gas pedal, brake pedal and steering wheel. The car was hooked up with a virtual reality headset that allowed drivers to text and drive without danger, while still allowing them to see the effects that texting has on their driving ability.

After taking a turn in the simulator, participants were asked to sign a pledge against texting and driving, giving their word to not text and drive and to educate others on the subject.

AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign has been in existence since 2009. The simulator is traveling to more than 200 locations this year, showing teenagers and adults alike that texting and driving is a serious problem that has deadly ramifications as the driver, passengers, pedestrians and others on the road. Along with the simulator, AT&T has also produced several commercials that demonstrate the ramifications of texting while driving through testimonials and developed an app to help prevent the use of cell phones while driving.

For more information on the campaign or if you would like to sign the pledge, try an online version of the simulator or share a personal story about the dangers of texting and driving visit itcanwait.com. The website also provides many other educational tools on the subject of texting and driving.

Why AT&T says teens are especially at risk:

• They’re inexperienced drivers, and used to responding to texts immediately
• Teens have grown up texting, take it for granted, so it’s important to set the right example
• 77 percent of teens have seen their parents text and drive
• 75 percent say it’s “common” among their friends

“The simulator has a tremendous impact on those who go through it, both young and old. I heard a number of people who tried say they were amazed at how badly they drove while attempting to text. If we are able to save one young person or prevent one wreck from doing this exercise, it will be well worth it,” said Brad McLean, external affairs manager for AT&T.



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