By Steve Hahn and Julie Breitenstein
KANSAS CITY, KAN. --- You’re driving to work, when suddenly your phone buzzes with a text from a friend about weekend plans. Without thinking, you take your eyes off the road to tap a quick reply: “c u @ 8.”
What you don’t see is a stopped school bus that your car slams into. When you come to in the ICU, the doctor tells you that you’ll be okay… but you have critically hurt two of the kids on the bus.
In an instant, you’ve changed your life - and others - forever.
This scenario may seem extreme, but it’s all too familiar for thousands of people. Texting while driving has become a dangerous epidemic. In an era when wireless connectivity is such an important part of our lives, the pressure to take your eyes off the road to respond to an email or text is strong - it may even seem expected. It’s not, and it should never be. According to the National Safety Council, texting while driving causes more than 100,000 crashes across America each year, and if something isn’t done, the number will only continue to rise.
By making the choice to text while driving, you place yourself and others at a significantly higher risk of being involved in an accident, and place the importance of a message above your own life and the lives of others. The truth is no text is worth such a deadly risk.
It is up to us, as individuals and as a society, to combat this deadly practice. But it won’t be easy. Today, more drivers than ever recognize the dangers of texting while driving, but continue to engage in this risky behavior. In fact, according to a Connectsafely.org and AT&T survey, the number of adult commuters that self-reported texting while driving has risen nearly 10 percent over the past three years.
Last year on September 19, AT&T held the first “No Text on Board Pledge Day” – a nationwide event in which drivers committed to never text and drive. To date, more than 2.5 million people have made the pledge and joined the movement to end texting while driving.
This year, the “It Can Wait” movement is taking the campaign a step further by organizing “Drive 4 Pledges Day” on September 19. On this day, we are teaming up with hundreds of other organizations and advocates – including all of the major wireless carriers - across the country to help end texting and driving. To strengthen this cause, we need your help. We’re asking every driver to make a personal commitment not to text and drive and recruit others to do the same. Please visit ItCanWait.com to take the pledge.
The power of one voice can make all the difference between another senseless fatality and saving a life. Even more, it can produce ripple effects that can change behavior across an entire community. By encouraging your family and friends to join the movement to stop this often fatal habit, you can make the difference.
Tragedies happen every day. While many are out of our control, the ones caused by texting while driving are completely preventable. The message is clear, simple and lifesaving. When faced with the decision to text while driving, remember: It Can Wait. Together, we can end this tragic epidemic and make our roadways safer for all of us.
Steve Hahn is president of AT&T Kansas. Julie Breitenstein is an It Can Wait advocate whose son, Austin, was severely injured in a texting while driving accident.