Study says 7 in 10 drivers on phones

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

With spring break upon us, young people will be on the roads en masse to celebrate freedom from school and responsibility. One responsibility we must insist they maintain, however, is driving while not distracted.

The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported that a virtual reality simulator was brought to Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Garyas part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign against distracted driving. The simulator gave students personal 3D experience showing how dangerous it is to take their eyes off the road to even just glance at a smartphone.

“It Can Wait” is a national movement launched in 2010 that focuses on the dangers of texting and driving. Today, an alarming seven in 10 people are using their smartphones while driving, according to new research from AT&T, but you can no longer assume they’re texting. Statistics show that nearly four in 10 are using social media while driving, three in 10 are surfing the internet and one in 10 are using video chat.

AT&T said it has expanded the “It Can Wait” campaign to include other driving distractions that have emerged as our relationships with electronic devices have changed. They claim their efforts have helped grow awareness of the dangers of using smartphones while driving to nearly 90 percent of audiences they’ve surveyed and have prompted more than 14 million people to pledge not to drive distracted.

Even so, when you look at drivers next to you on the road, you will no doubt see many holding a smartphone in hand. Indiana’s distracted driving laws are not as tough as some states, but according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, “they do restrict the use of cell phones for drivers, and contribute to reducing the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers.”

Indiana’s law, which went into effect in July 2011, bans all drivers from text messaging. The fine can be between $35 and $500. But the law is difficult to enforce, which is why so many drivers are lured by some sort of urgency to have to text or call or Facebook or tweet while driving instead of waiting till they arrive at their destination or pulling off the road to do so. We laud AT&T for its ongoing efforts to call attention to the dangers in order to help save lives.

According to The Times, students at Terrance Montgomery had their eyes opened by the simulation of what may happen if you drive distracted.

“It shows that you can be in a crash, harm yourself, your passenger and the other driver,” one student said. “After that experience, I’m more likely to tell people to get off the phone and wait until they’ve stopped.”

This was distributed by the Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.