Distractions can be deadly to drivers

Posted 26 April 2016 at 12:00 am


When you’re driving and your phone makes that familiar “ding” sound, what do you do? Sadly, that’s a life or death question. Every day, nine Americans die from distracted driving such as texting and checking their phones. In New York State alone, there’s an 840 percent increase in tickets issued for texting while driving since 2011. How come? Because some drivers don’t believe It Can Wait.

It Can Wait is the name of AT&T’s campaign to educate motorists on the dangers of texting while driving. As New Yorkers mark another Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s a shame this dangerous behavior continues. Despite the number of crashes, life-altering injuries and preventable fatalities, drivers continue to put themselves and others at risk.

That’s why AT&T and AAA Western and Central New York (AAA WCNY) have educated drivers about the dangers of distracted driving for years and have partnered with Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact common sense laws aimed at preventing this dangerous behavior. Fortunately, these laws appear to be working. According to a newly-released study by AT&T, states with laws aimed at curbing these dangerous behaviors have lower rates of texting while driving.

Still, some drivers ignore the risks. This same study found that 1 in 10 motorists has video chatted behind the wheel. Similar studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that more than 80 percent of drivers view distracted driving as a bigger problem than three years ago, yet 42 percent of drivers admit to reading a text message or email while driving.

For those drivers who can’t resist their phones, AT&T developed the DriveMode smartphone app that deactivates texting and other alerts when the car is moving and sends a friendly away message to people texting. AT&T also stages nationwide road shows with virtual reality driving simulators that challenge drivers to text while navigating busy streets (nearly every virtual driver crashes). AAA WCNY is also working to make our area roads safer with public service announcements, school programs, community events and driver training, and has been a leading traffic safety advocate since 1902.

As our world becomes increasingly mobile, keeping drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists safe is an urgent community effort that demands driver awareness, law enforcement and common sense. The temptation to stay connected with friends, family, colleagues and social media is not worth risking a life. Making that decision to take your eyes off the road, even for just seconds, puts your own life in danger and threatens those around you.

Hopefully one day we won’t need a Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and we can give the month of April back to showers needed for those May flowers. But for now, as the grim traffic statistics grow, so does the campaign to fight distracted driving by AT&T and AAA Western and Central New York.

Marissa Shorenstein , New York President of AT&T

Anthony Spada, President-CEO, AAA Western and Central New York