‘It Can Wait’ message presented to RHS students
Rhinelander students are urged to pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones
As Wisconsin marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, about 800 students at Rhinelander High School learned today about the dangers of smartphone activities while driving and were encouraged to take the pledge to keep their eyes on the road and not on their phones.
“Too many of today’s drivers are distracted by their smartphones when they should be focused on driving,” said Principal Shane Dornfeld. “We want our young people to understand that distracted driving can be very dangerous, even deadly. That’s why we feel it is so important for our students to hear the It Can Wait message and hopefully take the pledge to put down their phones when they are behind the wheel of a car.”
The event featured AAA’s distracted driving simulator, which allows students to experience the dangers of smartphone activities behind the wheel. Teens also watched two short films produced as part of AT&T’s “The Face of Distracted Driving” series that feature stories of teenage boys killed by smartphone distracted driving.
“The message of our It Can Wait campaign is simple – distracted driving is never okay,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin. “One glance at your phone while driving can change everything and even cost you your life. We are urging all drivers, especially our teens, to keep their eyes on the road and not on their phones.”
The assembly was one in a series of high school events AT&T, AAA and the Wisconsin State Patrol are holding this school year to drive home the dangers of distracted driving and encourage students to take the pledge. The event is part of AT&T’s It Can Wait® campaign, which has expanded from a focus on texting while driving to include other smartphone activities now common behind the wheel.
Research shows 81% of people admit to texting behind the wheel and 64% admit to snapping and viewing photos while driving. Other smartphone activities people say they do while driving include: playing music (64%); emailing (60%); accessing social media (50%); surfing the net (47%); watching or streaming videos (36%); and even video chatting (27%). Nearly 4 in 10 people call distracted driving a habit. And nearly a quarter of people don’t see it as a major problem.
However, research also shows taking action and speaking up can help reduce distracted driving. Seven in 10 drivers who have pledged at www.ItCanWait.com are keeping their commitment to not use their smartphones while driving. And 57% of people are more likely to stop driving distracted if a friend or passenger pressures them to.
“Smartphone use behind the wheel, and particularly texting and driving, have unfortunately led to an increase in distracted driving automobile accidents. This has become a major problem, especially among our youth,” said State Representative Rob Swearingen. “That is why initiatives like the It Can Wait campaign are invaluable educational opportunities for our young drivers to learn about the dangers of distracted driving.”
Wisconsin banned texting while driving over eight years ago on December 1, 2010.
“Despite the ban, we know too many drivers are still texting and focusing on their smartphones when they should be concentrating on the road,” said State Senator Tom Tiffany. “That’s why it is so important to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, especially for our newest and most inexperienced drivers.”
“Operating a motor vehicle is a major responsibility that requires a driver’s full attention,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell. “Taking your eyes off the road, even for a few moments, can have tragic consequences. To ensure the safety of all travelers, the State Patrol reminds drivers to always stay focused on the road ahead, slow down, and make sure everyone is buckled up.”
The It Can Wait campaign has turned into a national social movement with support from organizations all over the country, including the Wisconsin State Patrol and AAA. Since 2010, AT&T, AAA and the State Patrol have partnered together to hold events in 161 communities throughout Wisconsin, involving 174 high schools and reaching over 61,500 students. Nationally, over 36.5 million people have taken the pledge to not drive distracted by their phone since 2010.
To learn more about the It Can Wait campaign and to take the pledge, please visit www.ItCanWait.com.