As students head back to school, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has proclaimed September as "Don't Text & Drive: It Can Wait" Awareness Month throughout Wisconsin and is urging all residents, particularly teens, to never text behind the wheel.
"Not only is texting and driving against the law in Wisconsin, but it is one of the most dangerous activities far too many people do behind the wheel," said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald. "As inexperienced drivers and prolific texters, our teens are particularly at risk. I urge all Wisconsin drivers, especially our youth, to never text and drive."
The Wisconsin State Patrol also announced that it is teaming up with AAA and AT&T on a series of teen-focused events at high schools around the state this fall to drive home the dangers of texting and driving.
Assemblies were held at La Crosse Logan High School and Burlington High School on Wednesday and at Washington Park High School in Racine on Oct. 2. Events are also being planned for the following cities: Rhinelander, Wausau, Eau Claire and Madison, among others.
More than 100,000 times each year, an automobile crashes and people are injured or die because the driver was texting while driving, according to the National Safety Council.
Studies show teen drivers are particularly at risk. While 97 percent of teens say they know texting while driving is dangerous, 75 percent say the practice is "common" among their friends, according to a recent AT&T survey.
The survey also found almost all teens (89 percent) expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less, and 77 percent of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.
"We know that texting while driving is unfortunately far too common among our teens, even though they know it's dangerous," said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin. "That's why we are proud to partner with the State Patrol and AAA to not only spread the word about how deadly a simple text can be, but also challenge all drivers, especially our youth, to take the pledge to never text and drive."
AT&T is urging all Americans to pledge to stop texting and driving, and to join with others to make a lifelong commitment to never do so again.
The telecommunications company is calling on all drivers to go to www.itcanwait.com to take the no-texting-and-driving pledge - and then share their promise with others via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook.
The pledge effort is part of the company's public awareness campaign aimed directly at stopping the dangerous practice of texting while driving. AT&T will spend tens of millions of dollars on its "It Can Wait" campaign in 2012 and has made it an ongoing commitment in future years.
Texting is so dangerous because it takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds.
At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of a football field completely blind. Those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash.
Wisconsin's law, effective as of December 1, 2010, prohibits sending an e-mail or text message while driving and imposes a fine of up to $400.
As a primary enforcement law, officers may stop and ticket drivers solely for texting and driving. Wisconsin is among 37 states and the District of Columbia that ban text messaging by all drivers.
AAA has also launched a national initiative to ban texting while driving in every state by the year 2013 and is teaching teens about the devastating effects of texting behind the wheel through its distracted driving simulator. That simulator will be featured at this fall's high school events, along with AT&T's "The Last Text" documentary.
"AAA has long been warning the public of the dangers of distracted driving," said AAA Wisconsin Regional President Tom Frymark. "By partnering with educators, the State Patrol and AT&T, we hope to get the message across to even more Wisconsin drivers that texting and driving is a dangerous mix."
What are the most common
distractions for teens?
- Teen passengers: Teens love to drive their friends around, but teen passengers can be very distracting-by socializing, by goofing around, or even by deliberately interfering with the driver.
- Cell phones: they are helpful in emergencies,but drivers who are dialing, talking, or texting on their phones can not have their full attention on their driving.
- Adjusting the Radio: Teens enjoy their music, but manipulating the radio controls, such as changing songs on their ipod or MP3 player, is a prime cause of distraction for young drivers.
- Intense moods: We all get really happy or angry or sad at times, but these intense emotions distract drivers from the task of driving and can also cloud judgment.
- Others distractions: Reading maps, or eating that hamburger and fries in the car - anything that takes your attention from driving is a hazard.