Curbing distracted driving



By Matthew Dunlap and Owen Smith

Distracted driving is a public safety problem that grows with each passing year. This problem doesn’t discriminate based on age or race or geography; it affects mothers, fathers, children and grandparents. But the good news is that we can prevent it.

As we enter the busy summer travel season, it’s a good time to reflect on what we can do to prevent distracted driving this summer and throughout the year – and what we’re already doing here in Maine to raise awareness of this important issue.

Together, AT&T and the Maine secretary of state’s office are collaborating to bring the “It Can Wait” campaign to eight schools this school year alone. With the campaign’s simple message to keep your eyes on the road and not on your phone, drivers are being alerted to the dangers of activities like posting, texting or emailing behind the wheel.

Today, all but a handful of states have anti-texting laws on the books, and the research shows that the rate of texting while driving is declining, but we still have a long way to go.

The problem is no longer as simple as texting and driving. Think of all of the ways we use our smartphones each and every day – to send an email, check the weather, snap a picture of our children, even shoot a quick video. Shockingly, these are exactly the behaviors that are now happening behind the wheel.

In fact, 7 in 10 people admit to engaging in smartphone activity while driving. This is an issue that affects all of us.

Recent research by AT&T data scientists revealed that states with statewide anti-texting laws have lower rates of texting while driving – at a statistically significant level. More specifically, the AT&T data scientists believe that the four states without a full statewide ban have a roughly 17 percent higher rate of texting while driving than the 46 states with statewide bans.

Fortunately, Maine has a statewide anti-texting law in place, which has helped to reduce drastically the number of distracted driving-related incidents over the last year.

As we enter the busy spring and summer driving months – with day trips and vacations on their way – we are renewing our commitment to stay safe behind the wheel, and we encourage all Mainers to pledge to do the same.

Please join us and sign the pledge to keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone, by visiting www.ItCanWait.com. Your text or email can wait, but this effort to save lives cannot. Together, we can make our roads a safer place.

Matthew Dunlap is Maine’s secretary of state. Owen Smith, of Maine, is AT&T’s regional vice president.

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