Patch.com editors in Michigan are asking our communities to join us and take a pledge not to text while driving.
To support this effort, we’re teaming up with AT&T to offer some cool prizes for those who tell us why they won’t text and drive.
AT&T's recent "No Text is Worth Dying For" advertisements tell the stories about the last text sent by people who have died in crashes. Over the next couple weeks, we’re also going to share stories about why this issue is so critical in Michigan and in our communities, what our young people are learning about texting and driving at school, what local laws say, and how you can stay focused behind the wheel.
Jim Santilli, executive director of the nonprofit Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan, has been working to draw more attention to the dangers of distracted driving—especially texting and driving.
One of the TIA’s projects is a campaign featuring the friends and family of local teenager Ally Zimmerman, who was killed in a distracted driving accident. Santilli said the tragedy is a reminder why it is so critical to educate people about this issue.
“If we save one life or prevent one injury, it’s worth it,” Santilli said.
Heads up: Your kids are watching
The simple message is: Don’t text and drive.
Why? According to the TIA 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction in 2009, and an estimated 448,000 were injured. Those crashes made up 16 percent of all fatal crashes and 20 percent of all injury crashes for that year.
In Michigan last year, drivers were reported to be distracted in 3,986 crashes, and using cell phones in 821 crashes.
But, the actual numbers of deaths, injuries and accidents are likely even higher, said Dominique Matich, a traffic safety specialist for the TIA, because police don't report distracted driving or cellular use in an accident unless the driver reports it as a factor.
And lots of people are doing. No doubt you've seen a driver swerve on the road, and then seen a cell phone in his or her hand.
A recent AT&T survey about texting and driving showed:
- 75 percent of teens surveyed say that texting while driving is "common" among their friends;
- About 89 percent of teens expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less;
- And, before you point your finger at the kids, 77 percent of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.
A few more facts from the TIA website:
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
- Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
- Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
So set an example. Take the pledge. Get your kids and neighbors to take the pledge.
And let us know why you did it in our contest (you can enter at this link). The prizes are cool, but saving a life is the real reward.