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Terry Weaver, Published September 22 2012

Letter: No text is worth dying for

Cellphones have come a long way since they first came on the market. Gone are the days when they were simply “mobile phones.” Today, these devices provide a number of services that simplify and enhance our lives in ways previously unimaginable. With these new capabilities, however, come new responsibilities.

In recent years, there has been a spike in the number of car crash-related injuries and fatalities specifically caused by texting while driving. The reasons are clear. Sending a text takes an average of five seconds. But doing that while traveling 55 mph 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, but that’s effectively what you are doing if you send a text while driving.

Teenagers are back commuting to and from schools throughout the state this month. Their busy social lives and hectic activities schedule mean some will find it easiest to consolidate tasks and communicate with their peers via text messaging from behind the wheel. A recent poll found that 43 percent of teens openly admit to texting and driving. The same survey found that nine out of 10 teens expect recipients of their texts and emails to respond within five minutes. The pressure is on. This data clearly shows that the temptation to text while driving is greater than ever before.

The North Dakota Safety Council, the state Highway Patrol and AT&T have joined forces to educate the public – particularly teens – on the risks of texting behind the wheel. AT&T has a national “It Can Wait” public awareness campaign that we’ve brought to North Dakota. It has one simple, powerful message: No text is worth dying for.

AT&T plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on the campaign in 2012 and has made it an ongoing commitment in future years. Locally, AT&T’s efforts have included a $5,000 grant to the North Dakota Safety Council to educate teens about the choices they’re making when they text and drive. With those resources, we plan to take that message and incorporate it into our driver’s education programs across the state.

AT&T’s pledge drive urging all Americans to make a lifelong commitment not to text and drive culminated on Sept. 19, when AT&T, its employees and other supporters called on all drivers to go to www.itcanwait.com to take the no-texting-and-driving pledge, and then shared their promise with others via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook.

The pledge effort is part of the company’s public awareness campaign aimed directly at stopping the dangerous practice of texting while driving. AT&T Stores throughout the state are passing out “No Text on Board” T-shirts and stickers to customers who take the pledge not to text and drive.

Take the pledge to never text and drive again.

Weaver is program coordinator, North Dakota Safety Council.