Following the tremendous success of last year's "Txting & Drving…It Can Wait" campaign, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) are again bringing attention to the dangers of texting and driving with a statewide high school awareness tour, which visited Toll Gate High School in Warwick today.
Joined by Warwick Police Colonel Stephen M. McCartney, AT&T New England President Patricia Jacobs and Rhode Island State Police Lieutenant Eric LaRiviere, Attorney General Kilmartin urged Toll Gate students to pledge to never text and drive.
The assembly began with Principal Steven Chrabaszcz demonstrating a driving simulator that showed how much texting affects a driver's ability to maintain control of a vehicle – after receiving a simulated text message, Principal Chrabaszcz "crashed." A short speaking program followed the driving simulator, and then students, teachers and guests viewed an AT&T documentary featuring families impacted by texting and driving accidents. At the conclusion of the presentation, students and faculty were asked to sign a pledge to not text and drive. More than 500 students at the high school took the pledge.
"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. To date, we have visited 20 schools across Rhode Island, where over 7,500 students took the pledge not to text and drive. We will continue spreading this important message: when it comes to texting and driving, It Can Wait."
"The program that the Attorney General has underscores the importance for young people to understand the dangers of texting while driving," said Colonel Stephen M. McCartney. "Driving requires full concentration not distraction caused by texting that potentially leads to disastrous consequences. When you are driving a car, it is important to resist that temptation to anything less than full operator attention to the road."
Throughout the school year, AG Kilmartin and RIDOT will bring the public awareness campaign to area high schools. The next stop is scheduled for Tuesday, October 29 at Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket. Interested parties are encouraged to follow the lead of the Toll Gate High School students and bring the "It Can Wait" program to their high school. Those interested should contact the Office of Attorney General at 401-274-4400 ext 2007.
A recent ConnectSafely.org survey(1) 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, "Distracted Drivers are a serious problem on our roadways. As the enforcement arm of this campaign, we are pleased to join Attorney General Kilmartin, DOT and educators to get the message out to our most vulnerable population, DON'T TEXT and DRIVE!"
"Young drivers need to learn that the consequences to texting and driving can be deadly," said RIDOT Director Lewis. "As we visit area high schools, we will be armed with the same safety message: Don't text and drive. 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 8.
"We're thrilled to be partnering with Attorney General Kilmartin and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving," said Patricia Jacobs, President of AT&T in New England. "We hope that the result of our efforts will be that thousands of teen drivers – and their parents – across Rhode Island will pledge to never text and drive."
To take the pledge and find additional information on AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign, please visit www.att.com/itcanwait.
(1) ConnectSafely.org survey sponsored by AT&T.