The Edmond Sun
Reece Ritter, a University of Central Oklahoma freshman from Pryor, said he is in the moderate class of individuals who text. He acknowledged that he sends text messages while he drives.
“I’m guilty of it,” he said.
Wednesday morning, Ritter was at the UCO Wellness Center experiencing AT&T’s virtual texting-while-driving simulator designed to demonstrate potential life-and-death consequences of texting while driving.
Participants sit in a full-sized car and wear a visor that takes them on a virtual road course. Near the car, an AT&T technician uses a laptop computer to send text messages to the participant who sends a reply via their cell phone while they’re driving. After the brief simulation, the system tallies things like crossing the centerline and hitting pedestrians.
After signing a pledge to not text while driving, Ritter said during his simulator experience he struck several pedestrians. He said he will remember the experience the next time he sends a text message, and he will try to limit doing so to when he is at a stop light.
UCO junior Kaleigh Kuglmeier said she has been sending text messages since she’s had a cell phone. Kuglmeier said the realistic simulator is a reality check and the experience will likely change her texting habits.
“I think it’s a good thing they’re doing,” she said.
A recent AT&T survey found that 97 percent of teens say they know that texting is dangerous. The survey also found:
• 75 percent of teens surveyed say that texting while driving is “common” among their friends;
• Almost all teens (89 percent) expect a reply to a text or email within 5 minutes or less; and
• 77 percent of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.
Spokeswoman Emily Lang said AT&T is building on the It Can Wait campaign, which has raised awareness of the dangers of texting while driving and resulted in more than 1.2 million pledges to not text behind the wheel.
“It’s not an issue that just affects teens,” Lang said. “It affects everybody.”
Lives can be changed by texting in the blink of an eye. Lang said if you are driving a car going 65 mph and look away for one second the car would have traveled the length of a basketball court.
“In 5 seconds you’ve gone the length of a football field,” Lang said. “And we would never drive the length of a football field blindfolded. But people that text behind the wheel are basically doing that.”
AT&T offers an online driving simulator at www.itcanwait.com where citizens can take the pledge to not text and drive and anyone with access to the Internet can use an online simulator to experience the dangers of texting while driving.
The company also offers the DriveMode app that will turn on automatically once your vehicle starts moving 25 miles per hour. Then anyone who tries to text or email will receive an auto reply message telling them you’re currently driving and will get back to them soon.
While enabled, depending on your device, the app also stops incoming sounds for texts, email and voice calls so you’re less tempted to grab the phone. The app automatically turns off once the vehicle is going less than 25 mph for 5 minutes and then the user can view the calls, messages and email as they normally would.
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