Author’s note: Due to the seriousness of the topic, this article has been extended and is longer than the articles that are published every day.
- Eric Okerblom was struck and killed while cycling one day by a teen driver who was texting while driving. Eric was a freshman at the University of California Berkeley and had planned to join the cycling team when he was a sophomore.
- A Los Angeles commuter train conductor was busy sending and receiving 40 text messages and missed a red light. His train collided head-on with a freight train, injuring 135 people, and killing the conductor and 24 other people. It was the second worst commuter train crash in U.S. history.
- A 17-year old New York driver was with four teen-aged passengers when she swerved into oncoming traffic while texting. The result was a head-on collision. All five teenagers were killed.
Cell phones. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.
When you’re driving and you want to get in touch with someone, it’s easier to text. And quicker. You don’t have to talk or listen, you just type or read what you want and that’s it. It’s no big deal. If you need to text someone while you drive, it’s a quick and painless process.
Maybe quick, but maybe not so painless. And not to be dramatic, but if you text someone, it could be the last text message you ever send.
- Fact: Texting while driving increases the risk of accident 23.2 times over hands-free driving.
- Fact:In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spend 4.6 seconds looking away from the road. (Note: If you are going 55 mph, this is equivalent of traveling the entire length of a football field when you’re blindfolded.)
- Fact: Ninety five people surveyed saw that they were aware that texting while driving was unsafe and considered unacceptable driving practice; 21 percent said that they do it anyway.
Facts and examples aside (put them aside, don’t forget them), sometimes you still can’t afford to miss a text. You don’t want to turn the phone off, so what can you do?
Telecommunications industry leader AT&T has an answer – and it just may save your life.
On June 12, AT&T officially launched their “It Can Wait” campaign to stress and educate communities nationwide to educate schools, safety organizations, government agencies, and more about the dangers of texting while driving. As part of this campaign, AT&T put together a documentary called “The Last Text”, a powerful and moving narrative report by people whose lives have been totally altered as a result of texting while driving. AT&T is working to distribute the video to numerous government agencies and safety organizations around the country, as well as to educators, students and policymakers.
Scott Huscher, the Phoenix Corporate Communications Representative for AT&T, gives his perspective on texting while driving. “Everyone I know texts, sends emails, and talks on the phone while they drive,” he says. “This app is an important step toward creating safer roads.”
The app he is talking about is called DriveMode.
DriveMode is a cell phone app that auto-replies to texts, emails, and calls while you’re driving so that you don’t have to pick your phone up, but you still get all of your messages while on the road. When you activate the app, the screen is automatically locked, preventing the use of the cell phone. Any sounds that notify you that someone has texted or called you are silenced. Every time you get a text, call, etc., an auto-reply message (you can record your own) kicks in to let your caller know that you are driving and can’t take any calls or texts (i.e. “Can’t talk right now, I’m driving.”). When DriveMode is enabled, 911 is always activated. You can have one music app and one navigation app of your choosing enabled, as well. When you get to someplace where you can stop and text without driving, turn the app (and the car) off, and everything goes back to normal; you can view what came in while you were driving and not texting. Using the app is a piece of cake.
There are other cell phone apps out there that you can get to help you not to text while drive. Some of them read the texts aloud to you in real time (right when the texts come in), some offer a temporary unblocking feature, and some let you press a button to get in touch with a pre-programmed person, and have that person unblock the app so you can use your phone.
AT&T has skipped all of that. When you are driving, that is all you should be doing: Driving. If you have any temptations whatsoever to text someone, there’s a chance you may weaken and say, “Just this once.” AT&T has eliminated that by reducing the temptation to text. Kind of an out-of-ear-shot, out-of-mind type of thing.
One more good thing about this app: AT&T has made it free, and you can download it from Blackberry App World or the AT&T AppCenter. By downloading the app, customers are also automatically taking AT&T’s “Texting & Driving…It Can Wait” pledge, joining more than 63,000 others who have made the commitment to not text while driving. AT&T would like to invite you to take the pledge, as well.
You don’t think about the fact that when you get behind the wheel, you are operating a mammoth amount of steel. For instance, if you drive a compact car, you are operating up to 4,500 pounds of machinery. It’s ludicrous to think that you can do that all the time while you text and drive. If you text and drive a lot, you are just playing the odds. It can be difficult to not text while driving, especially if you have gotten into the habit. Install DriveMode and let AT&T take the temptation away. You won’t miss any texts, and everyone on the road will be a lot safer.
Lori Cline, Phoenix Gadgets Examiner
Questions or Comments, email me at [email protected]
To view final outcomes of some texting while driving accidents in addition to screenshots of the DriveMode app, see the slideshow.
The documentary “It Can Wait” is supported by CTIA – The Wireless Association, The National Safety Council (NSC), National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
Additional Notes: “It Can Wait” is sponsored by District Attorney Gerry Leone’s office and its private nonprofit partner, Middlesex Partnerships for Youth Inc., in collaboration with AT&T.