Modified: May 2, 2018 4:00pm
Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, AAA WCNY, AT&T,
Erie County Sheriff’s Office & New York State Police Team Up
for Distracted Driving Awareness Week in Western New York
AT&T’s “It Can Wait” virtual reality simulators showcase dangers of distracted driving
Erie County, NY – Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, AAA Western and Central New York, AT&T, Erie County Sheriff’s Department and New York State Police have all partnered to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. Now is the time to recognize AAA’s 100 Deadliest Days (the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen crash fatalities historically climb), the AT&T “It Can Wait” campaign, and state distracted driving laws. The Distracted Driving Awareness Week in Western New York kickoff was hosted May 1 at the Erie County Auto Bureau in the Town of Tonawanda, where young drivers, parents and all those who visited the auto bureau were educated about the dangers of distracted driving.
The goal of Distracted Driving Awareness Week in Western New York is to increase education and remind all drivers that a post, a selfie, a text, a scroll, an email—one look when behind the wheel is all it takes to lose a life. AAA research shows that 10 people are killed in distracted driving crashes every day. Studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety find that nearly 90 percent of drivers view distracted driving as a growing problem, yet nearly half (49 percent) of drivers admit to talking on a handheld phone behind the wheel.
To help drive home the message of the dangers of distracted driving, visitors were able to test drive AT&T’s new virtual reality “It Can Wait” simulators at the Auto Bureau, which allow users to experience, in 3D, firsthand how dangerous it can be when you drive and take your eyes off the road to look at your smartphone. AAA offered tips and literature on how to avoid distracted driving, and the New York State Police and Erie County Sheriff’s Office were also in attendance to provide safe driving tips for the warmer weather, to clarify laws pertaining to distracted driving, and to discuss the devastating dangers associated with this behavior.
The virtual reality simulators immersive experience is part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, which urges drivers to visit www.ItCanWait.com, where they can pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone, and share their pledge with others via Twitter (#ItCanWait) and Facebook. Launched more than six years ago as a campaign focused on not texting and driving, it has now expanded its focus to the broader dangers of smartphone use while driving.
AT&T announced during the event that a newly-released study conducted by the company shows that states such as New York, with laws aimed at curbing distracted driving, have lower rates of texting while driving. To help those drivers who can’t resist their phones, AT&T offers a free app, DriveMode,for smartphones that deactivates texting and other alerts when the car is moving and sends a friendly away message to people texting.
Clerk Kearns has been a longtime champion of combating distracted driving and keeping Western New York roads safe. Kearns has continued to stress the importance of being aware on the roads, and emphasize to both adults and young drivers the extreme dangers of being distracted by electronics while on the road.
“We continue to see the devastating impact of drivers who feel answering a text is more important than their life or the lives of others on the road,” said Kearns. “I applaud AT&T and AAA for their continued efforts with the ‘It Can Wait’ Pledge, bringing awareness to distracted driving. Our law enforcement, such as the New York State Police and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, do excellent work to ensure drivers are safe on the roads. However, we as the driver must take on the personal responsibility to remain alert and aware while driving a vehicle.”
“As summer approaches, we will see more drivers on the road, and with that, there will be more people attempting to text and drive, but that is a bad and deadly mistake,” said Sheriff Timothy Howard. “My Deputies would rather issue a ticket than visit family members following a crash, so I strongly urge everyone to take the It Can Wait pledge.”
County Clerk Kearns encourages all drivers to sign and adhere to their own Safe Driving Pledge, in addition to taking part in AT&T’s “It Can Wait” movement. “A disturbing fact, based on a survey conducted by AT&T, is that 77 percent of teens have seen their parents text and drive,” said Kearns. “We need to remind motorists to ‘just drive’ when operating a motor vehicle and continue to educate the public that texting and driving is not only against the law, but it has both dangerous and costly consequences.”
“Driving is a big part of our everyday lives and people are passionate about smartphone communications,” said Kevin Hanna, director of External Affairs, AT&T. “But using your smartphone for activities like messaging or social posts while driving is very dangerous to all on the road. AT&T is proud to be working with County Clerk Kearns, AAA, New York State Police and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office to raise awareness of the dangers and help people change their behavior.”
“April was distracted driving awareness month, but we need more than just 30 days to get the important message across and all adults need to be good role models for young, impressionable drivers,” said Elizabeth Carey, Director of Public Relations, AAA WCNY. “With summer quickly approaching, we will see more teen drivers on the road, along with more pedestrians, bicyclists, and children playing — now is the time to disconnect and drive and pledge to keep our roads safe all year long. We thank our partners for their efforts to bring a stop to distracted driving.”
“Mobile and smart phones are a way of life, but when driving on the roadways you may take a life by answering a text or using social media,” said Trooper James O’Callaghan, Public Information Officer, New York State Police – Troop A Headquarters. “Help make our roads safe by keeping your eyes on the road and not on your phone, it is the law.”
For the next week all Erie County Auto Bureaus will feature a special “It Can Wait” pledge board and the partnering organizations are encouraging all visitors to sign the pledge to keep their eyes on the road and not on their phone.
For additional information on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, visit www.ItCanWait.com.