Elk Mound students distracted driving

Students from Elk Mound High School learned about the dangers of smartphone use while driving during an It Can Wait event hosted by AT&T, AAA and the Wisconsin State Patrol. Pictured left to right are Trooper Timothy Knutson; students Maggie Bartig, Jonathan Kettler, Morgan Radtke and Ethan Rubenzer; and Sheriff Dennis Rhead.

ELK MOUND – As Wisconsin marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, 300 students from Elk Mound High School learned today about the dangers of smartphone activities while driving and were encouraged to take the pledge to keep their eyes on the road and not on their phones.

Elk Mound High School teamed up with AT&T, AAA and the Wisconsin State Patrol as part of the “It Can Wait” campaign to remind students that smartphone activity can – and should – wait until after driving.

“As our students are driving, we want to make sure they understand how extremely dangerous it is to drive distracted, especially by using their smartphones,” said Principal Paul Kling. “It is never okay to text, email, post on social media, or take selfies while driving. We hope our students take the It Can Wait message seriously and pledge to put down their phones when they are behind the wheel.”

The event featured AAA’s distracted driving simulator, which allows students to experience the dangers of smartphone activities behind the wheel.

Teens also watched two short films produced as part of AT&T’s “The Face of Distracted Driving” series that feature stories of teenage boys killed by smartphone distracted driving (Caleb’s story and Forrest’s story).

“The message of our It Can Wait campaign is simple – distracted driving is never okay,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin. “One glance at your phone while driving can change everything and even cost you your life. We are urging all drivers, especially our teens, to keep their eyes on the road and not on their phones.”

The assembly was one in a series of high school events AT&T, AAA and the Wisconsin State Patrol are holding this school year to drive home the dangers of distracted driving and encourage students to take the pledge. The event is part of AT&T’s It Can Wait® campaign, which has expanded from a focus on texting while driving to include other smartphone activities now common behind the wheel.

Research from AT&T shows 81% of people admit to texting behind the wheel and 64% admit to snapping and viewing photos while driving.

Other smartphone activities people say they do while driving include: playing music (64%); emailing (60%); accessing social media (50%); surfing the net (47%); watching or streaming videos (36%); and even video chatting (27%).

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Nearly 4 in 10 people call distracted driving a habit. And nearly a quarter of people don’t see it as a major problem.

However, research also shows taking action and speaking up can help reduce distracted driving. Seven in 10 drivers who have pledged at www.ItCanWait.com are keeping their commitment to not use their smartphones while driving. And 57% of people are more likely to stop driving distracted if a friend or passenger pressures them to.

Wisconsin banned texting while driving over eight years ago on December 1, 2010.

“Despite the ban, we know some drivers are not only texting, but also posting on social media or even taking videos,” said Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie. “That’s why efforts like the It Can Wait campaign are so important. We must remind all drivers about Wisconsin’s law and the very real dangers of checking their phones while driving.”

“Operating a motor vehicle is a major responsibility that requires a driver’s full attention,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell. “Taking your eyes off the road, even for a few moments, can have tragic consequences. To ensure the safety of all travelers, the State Patrol reminds drivers to always stay focused on the road ahead, slow down, and make sure everyone is buckled up.”

The It Can Wait campaign has turned into a national social movement with support from organizations all over the country, including the Wisconsin State Patrol and AAA.

Since 2010, AT&T, AAA and the State Patrol have partnered together to hold events in 157 communities throughout Wisconsin, involving 168 high schools and reaching over 59,000 students.

Nationally, over 36 million people have taken the pledge to not drive distracted by their phone since 2010.

To learn more about the It Can Wait campaign and to take the pledge, please visit www.ItCanWait.com.

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