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Teen-Led, Teen-Focused State Summit Educates Peers on Dangers of Texting While Driving

Nearly 800 Wisconsin High School Students Discuss Risks of Deadly Practice, Hear from Safety Leaders from the Wisconsin State Patrol, AT&T Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells , Wisconsin, April 24, 2012

Nearly 800 teens from throughout the state learned today about the dangers of texting while driving and Wisconsin’s law banning the deadly practice during a day-long State Summit on Teen Distracted Driving in Wisconsin Dells. 

The simple message that text messages can – and should wait until after driving was reinforced today at the first-ever Wisconsin State Summit by students from Oak Creek High School, the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Wisconsin Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and AT&T Wisconsin.  The teen-led, teen-focused Summit was organized by a group of students from Oak Creek High School who were chosen to participate last fall in the National Teen Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C., and then tasked with holding a State Summit in Wisconsin in 2012.

“In today’s world of instant communication, we know how tempting it is for teen drivers to respond to text messages right away while driving – even though they know it’s dangerous and against the law,” said Didi Alzubeidi, an Oak Creek High senior and president of her school’s FCCLA.  “We hope the teen focus of today’s Summit will drive home the very real dangers and consequences of texting and driving, and encourage all of our peers to put down their phones while on the road.  It’s really a simple message: there’s no text worth dying over.”

To drive home that message, today’s Summit featured a showing of a documentary called “The Last Text” that shares real stories of lives altered or ended because of texting and driving, a presentation on the hazards of distracted driving by the Wisconsin State Patrol, a student obstacle course that demonstrated how impossible it is to text and drive safely, and an AT&T app called DriveMode that helps reduce the temptation to text and drive.

Studies show that teen drivers are particularly at risk for both texting while driving and car crashes.  Not only do teens text five times more a day than adults on average, but those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash.1 In addition, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens.  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.

That’s why AT&T’s “Texting & Driving … It Can Wait” public awareness campaign is especially focused on educating teens about the risks of texting while driving.  As part of its campaign, AT&T developed “The Last Text” documentary to examine the real world consequences of texting and driving.  Each of the individuals in the video volunteered their stories to help educate Americans, particularly youth, about the risks of texting behind the wheel.  The documentary can be viewed on the AT&T “It Can Wait” website and on the AT&T YouTube page.

Students were shown the documentary at today’s Summit and challenged to sign a teen pledge to not text and drive and encourage their friends and families to do the same.  Others can sign the pledge not to text and drive on AT&T’s Facebook page.  Students from Oak Creek High School also demonstrated via an obstacle course how dangerous it is to text and drive safely.

“Texting while driving is a dangerous and deadly epidemic on America’s roadways,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, State President of AT&T Wisconsin.  “That’s why today’s Summit is such an important part of our efforts to educate our youth about the dangers and help keep our roads safe for all drivers.”

Today’s event also highlighted AT&T’s DriveMode* – a free mobile app for AndroidTM and BlackBerry® smartphone users – that, when enabled, sends a customizable auto-reply message to incoming texts and emails, notifying the sender that the user is driving and will respond when it is safe.  The app also provides an option to send calls directly to voicemail.

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. 

“If you text while driving, your hands are not on the steering wheel, your eyes are not on the road, and your mental focus is not on the traffic and road conditions around you,” said Major Sandra Huxtable, Director of the Wisconsin State Patrol’s Bureau of Transportation Safety.  “Without a doubt, texting while driving will increase your risk of causing a crash or failing to avoid one.”

The Oak Creek students were chosen last fall to participate in the National Teen Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C. – hosted by AT&T and the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) – and then tasked with holding their own state educational summit in 2012.  The Summit was made possible, in part, by a $95,000 contribution from AT&T to NOYS.  Today’s Summit took place as part of the Wisconsin FCCLA’s Annual State Leadership Conference.

AAA has also launched a national initiative to ban texting while driving in every state by the year 2013.  AT&T has partnered with AAA to host events at high schools around the state to warn teen drivers of the deadly consequences of texting while driving.  Through its driving simulator, AAA is teaching teens the devastating effects of texting while driving.

“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.”

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