To the Editor:
We are writing with a simple message for this holiday travel season: Don’t text and drive.
Distracted driving has long been a major issue, and as advancements in technology make our worlds more and more connected, research shows the problem is broader and more prevalent than ever before.
A recently released study showed more than 60 percent of American drivers admit to using their smartphones while driving, and around 30 percent admitted to surfing the Web for news behind the wheel. Even more drivers said they regularly check their social media while driving, and some even admitted to taking selfies and video chatting while their cars were in motion.
These driving habits are dangerous – and far too common. According to a March report, Maine State Police issued more than 1,000 distracted-driving citations over a six-month period. Our state leaders and police force should be applauded for enacting and enforcing smart, tough driver safety laws in Maine.
But we all need to work together to keep our roads safe, and that starts with putting an end to distracted driving. When you make the decision to take your eyes off the road to look at your phone, you’re doing more than putting your own life in danger. You’re potentially endangering the passengers in your car and the lives of the drivers around you.
That is why AT&T launched the “It Can Wait” movement more than five years ago to educate people around the dangers of texting and driving. This year, AT&T and the secretary of state’s office are joining forces to bring the “It Can Wait” program to several local high schools – encouraging hundreds of students to take the pledge to never use their smartphones while they’re driving.
Every pledge drives awareness, but there is so much more we can do. AT&T has launched tools like the DriveMode app to help break the habit. When activated, apps like DriveMode block text messages while you are driving and send responses that let those trying to reach you know you are driving and that you will respond when you arrive at your location.
We’ve learned the best way to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving is for them to hear the message from a friend or loved one. We all can make an impact by spreading this very important message. Take a moment to pledge or renew your commitment to keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone. Then, pass your pledge on to your friends. Working together, we can share solutions to this problem. We can inspire others to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone.
As we approach the busy holiday travel season, now is the time to spread this message. Together, we can build a safer future.
Matt Dunlap, Maine secretary of state
Owen Smith, regional vice president, AT&T New England