In an effort to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving, local AT&T locations teamed up with the Tri-City Valley Cats to spread the company’s “It Can Wait” campaign.
On Friday, July 19, a texting-while-driving simulator was set up at the AT&T location in Glenmont. The event was attended by company representatives, town officials and the Tri-City Valley Cats mascot. The company went on a local four-day tour with the simulator. They were also asking people to sign the “It Can Wait” pledge.
“This is an important time of year because we are smack dab in the 100 deadliest days of summer, which is a time roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day when distracted driving and drunk driving are at their heights,” said AT&T Director of External Affairs Ed Bergstraesser.
Bergstraesser said a recent AT&T survey found 97 percent of teens asked knew texting and driving was dangerous, but 75 percent said it was a common practice. The company has since received 1.2 million pledges in its campaign and is now working on giving presentations to high schools across the country.
According to the state officials, one in five accidents in New York is a result of distracted driving. From 2005 to 2011, the number of deaths and injuries from distracted driving increased by 143 percent.
Earlier in the month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo detailed a $1 million summer initiative to increase enforcement of distracted driving laws by boosting undercover operations statewide. State Police will use unmarked vehicles that are specially designed to enhance the ability of troopers to catch people using their phones while driving.
Throughout the afternoon, AT&T customers were asked to test the simulator in order to gain a better understanding of how difficult it is to text and drive, and to witness the repercussions. Participants were sent text messages while using a computer program to drive, complete with a fake steering wheel and pedals.
Participants were able to choose if they wanted to receive business or casual related texts. The texts included questions like what the person wanted for dinner or gossip about school. If participants waited too long at a stop light or swerved over the lines, they were stopped by police. But most didn’t make it that far before getting in an accident.
Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Kilcoyne used the simulator. She did well driving, but often ignored the texts in order to stay between the lines.
“It was even more difficult than I thought it would be,” she said. “With all the distractions and busyness of traffic these days, I don’t know why people would take the risk.”
Kilcoyne said she thinks the simulator is a great tool for drivers to grasp the focus needed when driving an automobile.
“It’s not something you really can do, while doing other things,” she said.