It’s a growing danger to those on the road, responsible for thousands of injuries and deaths each year.
Monday AT&T was on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville with a mission to show first-hand the risks that come with texting and driving.
The company set up a driving simulator right outside of the student union to let students see for themselves just how dangerous distracted driving is.
“They’re in an actual car and there is a screen in front of them,” said Cathy Foraker, director of external affairs at AT&T. “They are texting while driving the car and it shows them how apt they are to have an accident. You are 23 times more likely to accident if you text and drive.”
Merry Dye knows the pain of losing a loved one all too well. Her daughter Mariah West, a former student at Rogers Public Schools, died in 2009 after trying to read a text message while behind the wheel.
“If you’re legally drunk you are you are seven times more likely to have an accident,” Dye said. “If you’re texting you are 23 times more likely. The teens are starting to get it. But parents, your teens are watching you and you’ve got to be a good example.”
The simulator allows a student to get into a real car and wear a head device that shows a driving scene. They ask the driver to get up to 35 to 40 miles an hour, and then ”try” to send a short text like ‘Honey, I’m coming home for dinner.’
Almost every driver either drove off the road or crashed.
“It’s been almost an eye opener for them,” Foraker said. “We ask them to sign a pledge to sign a pledge. No text is worth dying for.”
Many students did take the pledge to not text and drive.
The simulator will be on the campus Tuesday as well as part of ongoing campaign to stop texting and driving.
According to distraction.gov, a website created by the Department of Transportation, in 2010 around 3,100 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and 416,000 were injured.
The website also estimates sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. If you’re going 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field blind.