By Dylan Deprey
While pulling out of the driveway on a sunny morning, a phone chirps and a text message pops up. While looking at the message a biker passes behind the car and a sudden jerk leads to a close encounter. After making a close-call accident at a stop sign with a mom and her stroller the car makes its way onto the highway. After avoiding a fender bender on the on-ramp a virtual body is finally ejected after T-boning a car while texting and driving.
“Oh no I crashed the car!” shouts a teenage girl sitting in a simulated car sporting a pair of virtual goggles and a headset.
AT&T’s “It Can Wait” virtual driving simulator gave teens and adults a reminder of the dangers of texting and driving at the Mary Ryan Boys and Girls Club Tuesday, May 31.
The “It Can Wait” distracted driving virtual simulator has been touring the country and is in Wisconsin this week.
The campaign was created in 2010 to keep people’s eyes on the road and not text and drive. With the ever-changing technology of the smart phone, the campaign’s message has changed as well.
Dextra Hadnot is the Director of External Affair AT&T Wisconsin. He spoke to the group of children and teens.
“Today we extend the campaign to other smartphone activities,” Hadnot said.
From Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat and Video Messages, drivers have even more options of distraction while driving then just texting.
“Four in ten are on social media while driving. Facebook being the top app people are using while driving,” Hadnot said.
The texting-while-driving law was enacted May 5, 2010. This provided that anyone texting while driving or were distracted while driving could receive a fine from $40 to $400.
“It is really not that hard to see if someone is texting and driving, especially if its dark and the whole car is lit up,” said Wisconsin State Trooper Michael Lawson.
Lawson noted how quickly something could occur during the couple seconds while looking at a text message.
“If you are driving 55 mph and look down at your phone for five seconds that is equivalent to the length of a football field,” Lawson said. “Imagine if you were looking at your phone for thirty seconds?”
The presentation was scheduled the day after Memorial Day an almost perfect coincidence for AAA Wisconsin Director of Public Affairs Nick Jarmusz. According to Jarmusz, the day after Memorial Day is the beginning of the most dangerous time for teen drivers.
“In the 100 days after memorial day an average of 10 teen drivers will be killed in car crashes,” Jarmusz said.
“That is about 1,000 teens every year.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, the number one cause of death for teens in the United States is motor vehicle crashes.
The presentation ended with those of driving age to try the simulator and sign the pledge to not use any aspect of a smartphone while driving.
State Rep. Evan Goyke even took a virtual spin on the simulator. He said although it was a simulation the close calls presented was lifelike having experienced some as a pedestrian, passenger and driver.
“The streets of Milwaukee are dangerous enough, when you add distracted driving it is like the gauntlet,” Goyke said.