Simulator shows dangers of texting while driving

January 25, 2013 7:42:01 PM PST
Police say young drivers are among the most likely to text while driving. It's habit they're trying to break. So they went to a South Bay college campus Friday with a novel approach.

Over 200 police agencies around the state, including San Jose, are mounting a big crackdown this year on texting and talking on mobile phones while driving. And they're using a video game-like simulator to prove how dangerous it is.

Sometimes it takes technology to demonstrate how dangerous technology can be. San Jose State University junior Ryan Harper got into a simulator to learn a lesson about texting while driving, something he readily admits he does.

"It's basically been the grace of god that I haven't been in an accident while driving and texting," Harper said.

AT&T is spending millions of dollars to drive home the message that it can wait if you get a text message on the road. And as adept as Harper is, he got into a crash.

When asked if the outcome from the simulator will change his thinking and behavior, Harper answered, "For sure. I don't have a car out here in San Jose, but yes, when I go home, I will not be texting and driving." And when asked if he was just saying that or if he's a changed man, he answered, "I promise, I'm a changed man."

San Jose police were also on hand to let students know they're planning 42 enforcement events this year to nab distracted drivers, whether they're texting or talking on a mobile phone.

They issued 123 citations last year. Most of the 3,500 crashes in 2012 involved distracted drivers.

"I think it's difficult for people to break the habit because we get more and more comfortable with the technology that we have, and we have this sense of confidence that we can just text a quick response to something or make a quick phone call to get information," said San Jose police traffic enforcement Sgt. Jim Hagen.

As part of its safety campaign, AT&T has an app that intercepts text messages when you're driving, sending a reply that you'll text back when it's safe to do so.

And sometimes it takes a real life story -- which AT&T has turned into public service announcements -- to underscore that texting is two-way process. Texting someone who is driving can have fatal consequences.

In the public service announcement a woman says, "Having a Highway Patrol officer write in a report that a text message sent at 12:05 is the reason that she is dead is not something that will ever go away."

Texting a simple "LOL" or "yeah" might take only a few seconds. But San Jose police point out that looking down for five seconds at 55 miles an hour means you're driving blind for the length of a football field.


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