With the summer in full swing, teens across Oklahoma and the rest of America are planning graduation parties, searching for summer jobs, and looking forward to a few months of freedom.
Unfortunately, another memorable season is fast approaching: dangerous driving season. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day have been dubbed the “100 Deadliest Days” for teens to be on the road. Many of these fatal accidents can be avoided by educating teens, their families and their communities about the dangers of texting and driving.
It can be hard for anyone, whether they’re teens or adults, to resist the urge to respond quickly to a text. In fact, a recent poll found that 43 percent of teens openly admit to texting and driving. The same survey found that nine out of 10 teens expect recipients of their texts and emails to respond within 5 minutes. The pressure is on — this data clearly shows that the temptation to text while driving is greater than ever before.
That’s why AT&T developed AT&T DriveMode, an app that auto-responds to any incoming texts with a message that says they’ll reply when it is safe. It silences incoming text noises and sends calls to voicemail, minimizing the temptation to respond. The company’s goal is to send a simple message to anyone who considers texting while driving: It can wait.
Sending a text takes an average of 5 seconds — but doing that while traveling 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with a blindfold on. It sounds unbelievable that anyone would unnecessarily close their eyes for a full 5 seconds while driving on the highway — and texting while driving is no different.
AT&T is committed to educating the public — particularly teens — on the risks of texting behind the wheel. Their ongoing efforts also include work with nonprofit, safety-focused organizations, like the National Organizations for Youth Safety, to educate teens about the choices they’re making when they text and drive. They also created “The Last Text,” a powerful, 10-minute documentary that features real stories about lives that have been dramatically altered by texting and driving.
You can help spread the word by visiting www.att.com/itcanwait, watching the documentary and signing the “It Can Wait” pledge — and letting your friends, loved ones, colleagues and community know that texting while driving is taking an unacceptable risk. Texting doesn’t just affect you — it can change the lives of the passengers in your car, your family, and strangers on the road. It puts everyone’s safety at risk.
It is simply tragic that a month that holds so many happy occasions and important steps for teens and their families is also so scarred by the loss of teen lives. It’s an exciting time to be young — the world is changing faster than ever before and AT&T plays a big part in the innovations that are connecting us and revolutionizing our way of life. But as technology progresses and mobile solutions become an even bigger part of our life, we have to step back and remind ourselves that unless used responsibly, technology can have real consequences. While being connected is important, while you are driving, it can wait.
BRYAN GONTERMAN, an Edmond resident, is president of AT&T Oklahoma.