NORRISTOWN - In an effort to stop texting and driving, the Montgomery County Health Department and AT&T asked members of the public to sign a pledge to stop texting and driving and to participate in a texting while driving simulator Friday.
'The Montgomery County Health Department is on a distracted driving mission this year. Often we lose sight of what's important, our livelihood and our safety. Texting while driving is a 100 percent preventable risk. Texting while driving puts you at a risk of 23 times higher than the alert non-distracted driver. Studies also indicate that texting while driving is also as dangerous as driving under the influence,' Brandi Chawaga, director of health promotion for the county health department, said.
Joe Divis, a representative from AT&T, said the company launched the 'It Can Wait' campaign to save lives.
'We want all drivers, but especially younger ones, to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel,' Divis said. 'Each of us has the power to prevent tragedies while behind the wheel by educating each other and ourselves about the distractions that are out there.'
Divis also told the crowd about an app created by AT&T that detects when your vehicle is moving more than 25 miles an hour.
'When activated, the drive mode can sense when you're driving more than 25 miles per hour and customize automatic responses to somebody who texts to you,' Divis explained. 'So if anybody needs you they'll know you're driving and that's your most important task.'
To help drive the message home, AT&T's 'It Can Wait' campaign brought a driving and texting simulator. Set up much like an arcade video game, participants would sit in a driver's seat facing a screen. As participants were 'driving,' a white message would flash across the bottom of the screen to indicate they received a text message. The driver would then look down at his/her cellphone which was attached to the simulator. Most participants crashed the car or went into another lane.
County commissioners' Chairman Josh Shapiro crashed into a parked car while using the simulator. Vice Chairwoman Leslie Richards ran a red light and was pulled over in the simulator.
'Even though it was a simulator it was scary and it demonstrates the very clear dangers of texting while driving,' Shapiro said. 'Being able to use a simulator like this, provided by AT&T, further demonstrates the dangers and makes people even more focused on not texting while driving.'
'We always hear how dangerous texting and driving is, but being able to be in the simulator and seeing how distracted you really are. That you can't be completely aware of all the things around you, when the lights are red, when they're green, when pedestrians are crossing, it really hit it home,' Richards said.
Griffin Hagler, the tour manager for the 'It Can Wait' campaign, said most people who use the simulator are surprised about how easily they are distracted.
'A good majority of the people who sit down with the simulator, especially the ones that actually admit to texting and driving, they sit down with this idea that they can do it because they sometimes do it in real life. When they're placed in this situation in the simulator and they realize they have a crash or realize how distracting it really is from this point of view, they really walk away with a greater understanding of how easy only one or two seconds can change your life forever,' Hagler said.
According to a flier handed out by the AT&T 'It Can Wait' campaign, Pennsylvania law prohibits texting while driving. To be caught texting and driving is a summary offense that comes with a $50 fine.
Information from the Times Herald, www.timesherald.com