Chapin High School First to Host AT&T’s Texting and Driving Assembly in South Carolina
Chapin High School became the first, and so far only, school in the state to host an assembly about the dangers of texting and driving.
The assembly was sponsored by AT&T as part of the company’s nationwide #ItCanWait campaign, which uses simulations to show attendees the dangers of texting and driving, checking social media, or even video chatting while driving.
Statistically, distracted driving, including texting and driving, is as dangerous for drivers and pedestrians as drunk driving. Although drivers know the dangers of drinking and driving – statistics show that the number of drunk driving accidents and DUI arrests has been decreasing for the last decade – many drivers fail to understand the individual dangers of texting and driving. AT&T statistics show that 4 in 10 of their cell phone users tap into social media while driving; 3 in 10 surf the internet; and 1 in 10 conducts a video chat while driving.
Students at Chapin High School wore an Oculus Rift to be immersed in a 3-minute long virtual reality video that shows how dangerous distracted driving can be. The simulation uses input from the viewer including their age, how often they drive, and how dangerous they think texting and driving is. With that information, the simulation creates a driving route through neighborhoods to highways, like the driver would be commuting to work. Whenever the driver checks their phone in the simulation, the vision becomes more blurry around the phone.
“I couldn’t believe how many times that this person picked up the phone! As soon as it rang!” Jim Hayes said.
“He’s on his phone again. We are about to hit kids on a bike!” Lisa Gresci said.
After several near misses involving a parent with a child in a stroller, bicyclists, and children on a side walk, the driver finally crashed.
“Naturally your eyes go down to that phone, and then you look up and there’s a jogger in front of you. Or a car or something. It’s a, it’s very much real life,” said Senator Greg Hembree, one of the senators behind South Carolina’s recently implemented texting and driving law.
Ted Creech, the Director of External Affairs for AT&T in South Carolina, said that “200,000 accidents are caused by texting and driving … per year nationwide.”
Although South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a texting and driving ban into law last year, the state still allows drivers to use hand-held devices while operating a motor vehicle, and talk on the phone – these also cause distracted driving accidents. However, only 14 states in the US ban these practices; 46 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban texting and driving specifically for all drivers. Three states prohibit text messaging by novice teen drivers, and three states ban texting and driving for school bus drivers.
“I’ve talked to families who’ve lost children, and people who’ve lost spouses, as a result of it, and when you’ve had those experiences, it will give you a different view, it’s not just somebody else, you’ve seen the consequences, how real they are, how terrible,” Hembree said.