As spring draws to a close, teens across the country are shopping for prom dresses, planning graduation parties, searching for summer jobs and looking forward to a few months of freedom. Unfortunately, another memorable season is fast approaching: dangerous driving season. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day have been dubbed the “100 Deadliest Days” for teens to be on the road. Many of these fatal accidents can be avoided by educating our teenagers, educating ourselves, our families and our communities about the dangers of texting and driving.
Although texting while driving is a growing national concern, it is of greater concern among our Latino teen population. According to a poll released today, while Hispanic teens are aware of the dangers of texting and driving, a troubling 54 percent admit to engaging in the risky behavior. Additionally, 52 percent of our teenagers who were interviewed in this survey, report seeing their parents text while driving (I will admit here to doing it at times when alone in the car at red lights—a big no-no so I am working on that!), raising concerns over parents’ influence on their child’s driving habits. Whether peer pressure or following a bad example plays a role, the pressure is on—this data clearly shows that the temptation to respond quickly to a text and constantly glance at our phone while driving is greater than ever before.
So what can we do? Innovative companies like AT&T are taking the lead. They have developed the AT&T DriveMode, an app that auto-responds to any incoming texts with a message that says they’ll reply when it is safe. It silences incoming text noises and sends calls to voicemail, minimizing the temptation to respond. The company’s goal is to send a simple message to anyone who considers texting while driving: it can wait.
One study by the Texas Transportation Institute concluded that when people read or send texts while driving, their reaction time doubles. Sending a text takes an average of five seconds—but doing that while traveling 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with a blindfold on. It sounds unbelievable that anyone would unnecessarily close their eyes for a full five seconds while driving on the highway—and texting while driving is no different.
“AT&T is committed to educating the public—particularly teens—on the risks of texting behind the wheel,” said Mariel Llenza, Director of Hispanic advertising for AT&T. “Our ongoing efforts also include work with non-profit, safety-focused organizations like the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) to educate teens about the choices they’re making when they text and drive. We are also working with terrific Latino organizations like LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) and the Hispanic Institute among others, to ensure the word gets out far and wide about dangers to our kids when they text and drive.”
AT&T also created The Last Text, a powerful, 10-minute documentary that features real stories about lives that have been dramatically altered by texting and driving.
All of you supermoms out there can help spread the word as well by visiting www.att.com/itcanwait, watching the documentary and signing the “It Can Wait” pledge—and letting all your amigas, comadres, loved ones, colleagues and community know that texting while driving is taking an unacceptable risk. Texting doesn’t just affect you—it can change the lives of the passengers in your car, your family, and strangers on the road. It puts everyone’s safety at risk.
It is simply tragic that a month that holds so many happy occasions and important steps for teens and their families is also so scarred by the loss of teen lives. Let’s make sure that our teenagers are smart, savvy and well-protected. For all of our familias!
It’s an exciting time to be young—the world is changing faster than ever before and it is heartening to see companies like AT&T play a big yet responsible part in the innovations that are connecting us and revolutionizing our way of life. So as technology progresses and mobile solutions become an even bigger part of our life, let’s step back and remind ourselves that unless used responsibly, technology can have very real consequences. While being connected is important mijito, while you are driving, it can wait.
Maria Cardona serves as Contributing Editor for Mamiverse, guiding readers through the political process and analyzing issues important to the influential Latina mami vote.