By Owen Smith and James Lockridge
It’s been one year since Vermont passed its statewide ban on using handheld mobile devices while driving. But, despite knowing the risks — and the laws — associated with distracted driving, far too many drivers across the state are still using their phones while behind the wheel.
Indeed, distracted driving is a common habit — and a tough one to quit. As our worlds become increasingly connected, so does our desire to stay constantly connected with our friends, family and social media channels. But those connections aren’t worth risking our safety on the road.
New research from AT&T shows that seven in 10 drivers admit to engaging in some form of smartphone activity while they’re driving — and text messaging is just part of the problem. The study shows drivers are updating their Facebook statuses, checking email, taking pictures and even video chatting while their cars are in motion!
Clearly, distracted driving is much more than a fleeting behavior; it’s a bad habit — one we all need to work together to break. As we enter this busy holiday travel season, now’s the time to take a close look at our driving habits.
There are tools out there that help drivers break their distracted driving habit. AT&T’s DriveMode app senses when your car is in motion and automatically blocks and responds to incoming text messages and phone calls to let those trying to reach you know you are driving and that you’ll respond when you arrive at your destination.
But perhaps the best way to combat distracted driving is to help spread the word.
AT&T launched its “It Can Wait” campaign more than five years ago to educate drivers — especially young drivers — about distracted driving. Together, AT&T and the Youth Safety Council of Vermont have visited dozens of high schools across the state to speak directly with students about their driving habits, encouraging thousands of students, parents and teachers to take the pledge to never again use their phones while driving.
Every pledge drives awareness, but there is so much more we can do.
Over the years, we’ve learned the best way to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving is for them to hear the message from their friends and loved ones. So please, consider talking to your friends and family members about this important issue. Take a moment to visit ItCanWait.com and pledge your commitment to keeping your eyes on the road, not on your phone.
The holiday travel season is a perfect time to spread this message. Together, we can build a safer future.
Owen Smith is regional vice president of AT&T New England; James Lockridge is executive director of the Youth Safety Council of Vermont