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Sending a five-second text while driving can be deadly

AT&T Mississippi president Mayo Flynt unsuccessfully attempts to text while driving in a simulator car.

All the latest technology can lead to a tethered, never-unplugged lifestyle, including texting at any time, anywhere, even while driving. This is a behind-the-wheel distraction that can lead to deadly results. AT&T has a campaign underway called It Can Wait, meaning no text message is so important it can’t wait.

Mayo Flynt, president of AT&T Mississippi, says the campaign is not just aimed at teenagers. “Adults are susceptible to the same pressures of thinking they must respond to a text immediately,” he said. “It’s something we all need to think about. We need to make texting while driving socially unacceptable as we’ve done with other things in society.”

The company has developed an app called AT&T Drive Mode that automatically responds to any incoming message, stating that the driver will respond when he or she gets to a safe place. It’s free and available for Android and Blackberry handsets. “A lot of our eagerness to respond is driven by the expectation of the person on the other end,” Flynt said. “That expectation can be delayed.”

The average text takes five seconds; not long, unless the text sender is driving a vehicle. In that brief span, a driver can travel the length of a football field when going 55 miles per hour. Imagine traveling that length blindfolded. “None of us would put on a blindfold or close our eyes and drive, but that’s what we’re doing if we text while driving,” he said.

An AT&T simulator shows what can happen if texting while driving. A person can sit in the car with the simulator, put on goggles and simulate driving. Each turn of the steering wheel prompts a text message. By the time the driver responds to the message, the simulator lets him know what could have happened during that time span — things such as traffic violations, manslaughter, killing a dog and other mishaps. A TV screen on the outside of the simulator allows spectators to see what the driver did. The simulator was in Jackson recently for the “American Idol” concert and will be returning to Mississippi. Flynt said dates and locations will be announced.

“We will continue to try to educate the public in this important safety matter as people use technology more and more,” he said. “Technology has become totally mobile in ways that are designed to help us, but no message is so important that we should risk our safety and the safety of others.”

A part of a national effort, the texting safety campaign is taking a number of forms. It’s being integrated with customers through stores, at school events, in TV ads, and on the Internet. A documentary is available that includes a pledge. Taking the pledge with someone else — perhaps parent and child, or spouses or friends — can foster a sense of commitment.

“A person is 23 times more likely to be in a crash if texting while driving,” Flynt added. “Texting can have dangerous consequences.”

More information can be found at www.att.com/itcanwait.



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