Weekly Feature

2018-05-16 / Business

Kearns, AAA WCNY, AT&T, team up for Distracted Driving Awareness Week

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, AAA Western and Central New York, AT&T, the Erie County Sheriff’s Department and New York State Police have partnered to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

The current period marks AAA’s 100 Deadliest Days — the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen crash fatalities historically climb. The Distracted Driving Awareness Week in Western New York kickoff was hosted May 1 at the Erie County Auto Bureau in the Town of Tonawanda, where young drivers, parents and all those who visited the auto bureau were educated about the dangers of distracted driving.

The goal of Distracted Driving Awareness Week in Western New York was to increase education and remind all drivers that a post, a selfie, a text, a scroll or an email is all it takes to lose a life. AAA research shows that 10 people are killed in distracted driving crashes every day. Studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety find that nearly 90 percent of drivers view distracted driving as a growing problem, yet nearly half of drivers admit to talking on a handheld phone behind the wheel.

To help drive home the message of the dangers of distracted driving, visitors were able to test drive AT&T’s new virtual reality “It Can Wait” simulators at the auto bureau, which allow users to experience firsthand how dangerous it can be when you drive and take your eyes off the road to look at your smartphone. AAA offered tips and literature on how to avoid distracted driving, and the New York State Police and Erie County Sheriff’s Office were also in attendance to provide safe driving tips for the warmer weather, to clarify laws pertaining to distracted driving, and to discuss the devastating dangers associated with this behavior.

The virtual reality simulators experience is part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, which urges drivers to visit www.ItCanWait.com, where they can pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone, and share their pledge with others via Twitter and Facebook. Launched more than six years ago as a campaign focused on not texting and driving, it has now expanded its focus to the broader dangers of smartphone use while driving.

AT&T announced during the event that a newly-released study conducted by the company shows that states such as New York, with laws aimed at curbing distracted driving, have lower rates of texting while driving. To help those drivers who can’t resist their phones, AT&T offers a free app, “DriveMode,” for smartphones that deactivates texting and other alerts when the car is moving and sends a friendly away message to people texting.

“We continue to see the devastating impact of drivers who feel answering a text is more important than their life or the lives of others on the road,” said Kearns. “I applaud AT&T and AAA for their continued efforts with the ‘It Can Wait’ pledge, bringing awareness to distracted driving.

“A disturbing fact, based on a survey conducted by AT&T, is that 77 percent of teens have seen their parents text and drive,” added Kearns. “We need to remind motorists to ‘just drive’ when operating a motor vehicle and continue to educate the public that texting and driving is not only against the law, but it has both dangerous and costly consequences.”

“Driving is a big part of our everyday lives and people are passionate about smartphone communications,” said Kevin Hanna, director of external affairs at AT&T. “Using your smartphone for activities like messaging or social posts while driving is very dangerous to all on the road.”

“April was distracted driving awareness month, but we need more than just 30 days to get the important message across and all adults need to be good role models for young, impressionable drivers,” added Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA WCNY. “With summer quickly approaching, we will see more teen drivers on the road, along with more pedestrians, bicyclists, and children playing — now is the time to disconnect and drive and pledge to keep our roads safe all year long. We thank our partners for their efforts to bring a stop to distracted driving.”

For additional information on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, visit www.ItCanWait.com.

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