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Cell phone companies endorse and sponsor anti-texting-while-driving film

As high school and college students have made their way back to school this semester, there is one thing in particular that social focus and parent/teacher groups are trying to push: the potential effects of distracted driving. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon have put together a film by German award-winning producer/director/actor extraordinaire Werner Herzog.

The three communications giants have commissioned a 35-minute video for Herzog. Titled It Can Wait, Herzog's docu-drama tells the stories of four people whose lives have been changed forever because of texting and distracted driving

A shorter version of It Can Wait is being distributed to over 40,000 high schools and hundreds of colleges across the country. The goal of Herzog and the three communications conglomerates is to have every high school in the country hold a mandatory assembly showing the video. The idea is to show, through real life events, that the dangers of texting and driving and distracted driving do not discriminate. The simple decision to send a three-word text can lead to a lifetime of guilt, grief, and consequences for anyone with a cellphone.

Perhaps what makes Herzog's film so powerful is that it focuses on the innocent passersby, the guiltless victims of distracted driving who never see it coming. One part of the film focuses on a young, promising football player. He was holding his little sister's hand as they walked down the street and he will now spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Another story tells the tale of three Amish children who were killed when a van smashed into their family's horse-drawn buggy.

Throughout United States automotive history, we have striven to make the necessary innovations to ensure our safety and the safety of our passengers. Eventually, car companies made air bags standard, seat belts a law, and have cracked down on drunk drivers by coming up with stricter laws and more severe penalties. It is essential now, more than ever, to enact laws in every state that deliver harsh penalties for people caught driving and texting.

In a recent experiment, Car and Driver attached a bright red light to tell drivers when to brake. For normal drivers, reactions ranged from around a quarter to a half second. Drivers who were given alcohol before the simulation added four feet of reaction time before they came to a stop. Astoundingly, reading an email or text added 36 feet and sending an email or text added 70 feet! That's nearly 25 yards of stalled reaction.

In 2011, the National Safety Council published that an estimated 200,000 crashes involved drivers who were texting. Other researchers say that texting is the root or partial cause of 3000 deaths and over 300,000 injuries among teens and young adults every year.

Transportation officials blame the epidemic of distracted driving on persistent ad campaigns that market the idea that we never have to turn our phones or other electronic devices off. "Cell phones," says former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, "are…like alcohol. We're hooked on them and can't put them down…"

So, the question becomes: What can be done? Laws against texting began in the state of Washington in 2007 and now 41 states have some type of rule prohibiting texting and driving. 47 states ban school bus drivers from texting while driving. In addition, 12 states ban talking on mobile phones (without Blue Tooth or other hands-free devices) and many more are adding "primary enforcement" provisions, which essentially means that police officers can pull you over, without question, if they catch you talking or texting.

The fact is that texting and driving can be just as, if not more, dangerous than drinking and driving. This is in large part due to the complete visual neglect of the road ahead for 3, 4, or 5 seconds at a time. It's also because you can't get from home to work without seeing at least a handful of people talking, texting, or emailing in the their vehicles. Some of even the safest drivers are guilty of checking their phones when they hear their favorite ring tone or notification sound.

By sponsoring It Can Wait, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon are doing a great service to their customers. It was they who helped create this "connection culture," so it is good to see that they have taken on the responsibility of helping reduce distracted driving with mobile phones, especially for their number one demographic: teens and young adults.  

Source:, "Let's solve epidemic of distracted driving" 1 September 2013

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