August 1, 2012 Edition

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When it comes to
texting & driving:
It Can Wait.

Edward Drilling
President, AT&T Arkansas

(Editor's note: Edward Drilling wrote this editorial earlier in the summer, but the message is still equally important as summer vacations wind down and schools prepare to reopen. Texting while driving is illegal in Arkansas, yet it remains a deadly problem in our state.)

Summer is now upon us, which means baseball season is in full swing, temperatures have warmed up, and teens across Arkansas and the rest of America are enjoying a few months of freedom.

Unfortunately, another memorable season is fast approaching: dangerous driving season. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day have been dubbed the "100 Deadliest Days" for teens to be on the road. Many of these fatal accidents can be avoided by educating teens, their families and their communities about the dangers of texting and driving.

It can be hard for anyone, whether they are a teenager or an adult, to resist the urge to respond quickly to a text. In fact, a recent poll found that 43 percent of teens openly admit to texting and driving. The same survey found that nine out of 10 teens expect recipients of their texts and emails to respond within five minutes. The pressure is on. This data clearly shows that the temptation to text while driving is greater than ever before.

Sending a text takes an average of five seconds. But doing that while traveling 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with a blindfold on. It sounds unbelievable that anyone would unnecessarily close their eyes for a full five seconds while driving on the highway, but that's effectively what you are doing if you send a text while driving.

AT&T is committed to educating the public - particularly teens - on the risks of texting behind the wheel. AT&T also created "The Last Text," which can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=DebhWD6ljZs&feature=relmfu. It is a powerful, 10-minute documentary that features real stories about lives that have been dramatically altered by texting and driving.

Recently, AT&T brought to Little Rock a texting while driving simulator, which provided a safe way for several hundred people, including teens and other drivers, to experience firsthand just how dangerous it is to text while driving. To reinforce the message, representatives from Arkansas Children's Hospital, members of the Arkansas Coalition Against Texting and Driving, and leaders in local law enforcement attended the event and urged those present to sign the pledge not to text and drive.

You can help spread the word by visiting www.att.com/itcanwait, watching the documentary, signing the "It Can Wait" pledge and letting your friends, loved ones, colleagues, and community know that texting while driving is taking an unacceptable risk. Texting while driving doesn't just affect you; it can change the lives of the passengers in your car, your family and strangers on the road. Texting while driving puts everyone's safety at risk.

It is simply tragic that a time of year that holds so many happy occasions and important steps for teens and their families is also so scarred by the loss of teen lives. It's an exciting time to be young - the world is changing faster than ever before. But as technology progresses and mobile solutions become an even bigger part of our lives, we have to step back and remind ourselves that unless used responsibly, technology can have very real consequences. While being connected is important, while you are driving, it can wait.

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