How Your Best Friend Could Save Your Life

Communities / Aug. 10, 2017 11:33am EDT

By Patricia Jacobs

In the midst of the busy summer travel months, it’s important to remember that our efforts to make our roads and highways safer must continue. And that means a continued campaign to cut down on the distracted driving that results from smart-phone use.

AT&T launched its “It Can Wait” distracted driving campaign in 2010. Since then, it has hosted dozens of school assemblies across Vermont to raise awareness about distracted driving and talk to thousands of local drivers of all ages about their driving habits.

Over the years, it has been found that the best way to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving and help them break out of the habit is two-fold:

1) Provide drivers with convenient, user-friendly tools that help them resist the urge to glance at their phones while behind the wheel; and

2) Encourage everyone in the community–from elected officials and policymakers to law enforcement officers to concerned parents, teachers and friends–to talk openly about the issue.

The tools are simple. In every electronics store, there are countless hands-free devices, Bluetooth speakers and mounted phone cases. These accessories, combined with a mobile app like AT&T DriveMode, will, when active, automatically block incoming notifications sensing that the car is in motion. With the right tools, drivers can stay connected without ever having to take their eyes off the road.

The second step can be a bit more complicated, but it’s incredibly important. Every one of the distracted driving studies since 2010 have gleaned a common result: Drivers– especially young drivers–are significantly more likely to change their behavior if a friend or a loved one asks them to.

While many of us have hundreds of phone numbers, email addresses and Facebook friends in our smartphones’ virtual rolodexes, AT&T research has found that most smartphone users have a significant number of their interactions with just five people. Our study also found those five people–your “Top 5” contacts– are genuinely capable of influencing and changing behavior.

When it comes to distracted driving, more than 80% of drivers said they would immediately stop using their phone while driving if someone in their “Top 5” asked them to.

We urge everyone to start using that influence. Remind your friends and loved ones that they are more important than any text message, Facebook post or email.

Since launching the “It Can Wait” campaign, AT&T has conducted a number of surveys and behavioral studies in an effort to fully understand distracted driving. We found that even though nearly 99% of drivers understand that texting while driving is dangerous, nearly 70% do it anyway.

Some say they do it because they think they’re better at multi-tasking than their peers. Some say they only use their phone at red lights, or they only quickly glance at their phones on occasion. Others say they’re trying to stop, but claim that distracted driving is a compulsion–even addicting.

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