Following the tremendous success of last year's "Texting & Drving…It Can Wait" campaign, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) and AT&T are again bringing attention to the dangers of texting and driving with a high school awareness tour, which will kick off on Thursday, September 19th to coincide with the national "Drive 4 Pledges Day."
"Texting while driving is a major problem, both in Rhode Island and across the country. We have seen multiple accidents right here in Rhode Island in which distracted driving and/or texting while driving was a contributing factor," said Attorney General Kilmartin, who sponsored the state's landmark legislation in 2009 banning texting while driving, as well as this year's legislation to increase penalties for drivers caught texting and driving. "Just as it took time and education to convince people to wear seat belts, it will take time to change attitudes about how dangerous it is to text and drive. We will continue spreading this important message: when it comes to texting and driving, It Can Wait."
Throughout the school year, Kilmartin, RIDOT and RISP will bring the AT&T public awareness campaign to area high schools, kicking off at North Providence High School on September 19th. Last year, Kilmartin, RIDOT, RISP and AT&T brought the It Can Wait program to 19 schools across Rhode Island, where over 7,000 students took the pledge not to text and drive.
Despite increased public awareness of the dangers of texting and driving, this risky behavior continues. A recent study found that "at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving," a number that has held steady since 2010. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,300 people were killed in 2011 and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver."
Additionally, recent data has shown that texting • Causes 25% of all accidents – 1.6 million total per year • Is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated • Is not a teen-only problem, with 47% of adults admitting to texting while driving.
Recent studies have also shown that • A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive • 20% of teens and 10% of parents admit they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving
A recent ConnectSafely.org survey found that individuals who speak up can have a profound impact, particularly on teens: • 78% of teen drivers said they're likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it's wrong or stupid. • 90% say they'd stop if a friend in the car asked them to. • 93% would stop if a parent in the car asked them to. • 44% say they would be thankful if a passenger complained about their texting while driving.
Rhode Island State Police Colonel and Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety Steven G. O'Donnell added, "Texting while driving can quickly go from a driving distraction to a driving fatality. There is no text message that is worth your life or the life of someone else on the road. No texts, no wrecks."
"The consequences of texting while driving can often be deadly," said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. "We're proud to partner for a second year with the Attorney General and AT&T to educate young drivers on the importance of putting cell phones away while behind the wheel."
"AT&T is proud to be part of this partnership, and we are particularly grateful to Attorney General Kilmartin for his leadership in raising the awareness of the dangers of texting and driving," said Patricia Jacobs, President of AT&T New England. "AT&T is committed to educating our customers in Rhode Island and across the country about the dangers of distracted driving and how to use their mobile devices safely. Our message is simple: there is no text worth risking your life to read or type – It Can Wait."
AT&T first began its "It Can Wait" campaign discouraging texting and driving in 2009, and the campaign is making a difference: one in three people who have seen the texting while driving documentary say they have changed their driving habits, the campaign has inspired more than 2.5 million pledges never to text and drive, and the recently-launched "From One Second to the Next" documentary has received over 2 million views since August 8th.
To take the pledge and find additional information on AG Kilmartin and AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign, please visit http://www.riag.ri.gov/texting/itcanwait.php/ or www.att.com/itcanwait.