AT&T educates teens about the dangers of texting and driving
by MARK LEDBETTER
FHS senior Cole Hayes receives a text while driving the AT&T simulator. Manning the simulator is AT&T team member Angelica Caporuscio and sitting beside Hayes is senior Courtney Rowe.
FAYETTEVILLE — AT&T and Fayetteville High School teamed up Tuesday to teach high school students the dangers of texting and driving.

“Driving and texting is not only not safe, it’s illegal,” AT&T regional director Glyn Agnew said.

AT&T’s “Texting & Driving: It Can Wait” initiative is a national campaign that, according to AT&T promotional materials, “focuses on educating the public — especially teens — on the dangers of texting and driving.”

To help drive the point home, AT&T has developed a presentation it takes nationwide. Tuesday morning, a five-member AT&T team set up shop in the FHS gym and presented a video documenting the possible consequences of texting while driving, conducted activities to illustrate the dangers, and provided a “Virtual Texting-While-Driving Simulator” that allows users to experience the dangers of texting while driving.

To help illustrate those dangers, Agnew had students participate in a group exercise. He had students line up in the gym, close their eyes and walk the length of the gym floor.

The point of the exercise, Agnew said, is that a car traveling 55 mph will cover the length of a basketball court in one second. He said a vehicle traveling 65 mph for 5 seconds could cover the distance of a football field.

“The average text lasts 5 seconds,” Agnew said. “That’s how far they drive blind.

“They’re driving glass, metal, gas, oil and something that is exploding,” he said, “They are driving a 4,000 pound weapon.

“We sell cell phones and text plans,” Agnew said. “Our goal is to make teens and adults aware of the need to drive safely.”

AT&T says texting and driving caused more than 100,000 crashes, resulting in life-changing injuries and deaths. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be in an accident.

And while 97 percent of teens surveyed agree that texting while driving is dangerous, 43 percent admitted texting while driving.

Agnew said teens average 3,500 texts per month, with some texting 7,000 to 10,000 times in a month.

“It’s the way they communicate,” Agnew said.

As AT&T’s regional director for Alabama Legislative and External Affairs, Agnew said AT&T worked with Rep. Jim McClendon, who sponsored the bill making texting and driving illegal.

Agnew said the issue is not just a teen problem, but includes adults. A survey reveals that 77 percent of teens surveyed said their parents text and drive.

Agnew said AT&T policy is no employee is to text and drive and any employee caught doing so would be disciplined or dismissed.

FHS senior Cole Hayes said the simulator is “pretty good.”

“It showed me a couple of things that I didn’t know,” he said.

Hayes said after seeing the video and participating in the simulator he decided that texting while driving is not worth the risk, not only from a safety position, but also how it affects your driving status.

“A ticket puts points on your record,” Hayes said.

He said one thing that stood out in his mind after watching the video is the teen who ran into a tree and no longer has use of his hands and feet.

“Hopefully this will make them think about texting and driving,” FHS student counselor Rachael Sherbert said.

She said she contacted AT&T after another counselor alerted her to the program.

Sherbert said she intends to provide driver education instructor Chris Sherbert a copy of the video to reinforce what students learned during the presentation.

Agnew said the video is available for viewing on the website “It Can Wait.”



Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com.

© 2013