ALBANY,Ga. -- In December of last year, AT&T produced and published an Internet video documentary aimed at making drivers aware of the dangers of texting and driving as New Year's Eve approached.
The 10-minute video, titled "The Last Text," is part of AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign intended as a warning to wireless customers -- particularly teens -- on the risks of text messaging while driving.
It was an overnight sensation, picked up by YouTube, social networking sites and blogs. To date, the original video on YouTube has been viewed more than 1,400,000 times.
"Distracted driving is an epidemic, particularly among teens who are confident in their ability to text or talk while driving," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Of the 5,500 people killed last year due to distracted driving, the largest proportion of fatalities occurred among young people under the age of 20. I hope teens will take this powerful video to heart and realize that when you're behind the wheel, no text message or phone call is worth the risk."
"This documentary is a raw look at the reality and hazards of texting while driving, and we hope it will make wireless customers think twice before pulling out their cell phones in the driver's seat," said Cathy Coughlin, senior executive vice president and global marketing officer for AT&T. "As a global telecommunications company, it is our responsibility to bring these risks to light."
But is the message getting through?
The question was posted on Facebook: "How many people have seen the AT&T dangers of texting while driving video online? What did you think about it? Do you think it could make a difference?"
The responses were many and varied, depending on age.
- "I saw it. It is a good video," Mike Scaff of Alabama commented. "But in my opinion, it will make an impression on some, but unless you know someone that gets jacked up under those circumstances, I doubt it moves them to change behavior."
- "I could text and drive very well with my old phone because it was a flip phone and I could text without looking at the buttons or screen. But with the new touch phone and technology, it makes it so much harder. You folks just need to be welcomed to the world of multitasking," Troy Lewis, a senior at the University of Georgia, commented." I can text and drive just because I can do it well. Some people are just bad, aloof drivers anyway, and if they weren't texting it would just be something to capture their ADD attention."
- "Troy, I'm sorry buddy, but NO ONE can text and drive 'very well.' Driving is a task that deserves your full attention," Christine Williamson of Hunstville, Ala., answered. "I have found that when I get behind a slow, sometimes erratic, driver, it is no longer the 'little old lady' but instead ... a younger person who is texting."
- "Troy, I know you think your driving is unaffected by texting (or talking on a cell), but that is not factual," Chris Hicks, a safety supervisor from Delta, Ala., posted. "Normal reaction time (including seeing hazard, identifying hazard and reaction to move your foot from gas to brake) takes at least ... one second.
"Adding even 0.5 second to your reaction time can cause major problems. At 30 mph, a one-second reaction time means you have traveled 44 feet before you apply your brakes. At 55 mph, you have gone 80.7 feet. And at 75, you will have traveled 110 feet before you start braking. 44/80.7/110 are the distances at one second.
"If your reaction time is slowed by half a second, your travel distances are now 66/121/165 feet. So at 75 mph, a 0.5-second delay in reaction adds an additional 55 feet in distance traveled."
- "I have a limited ability to process multiple streams of information," Bill Slugg of Albany wrote. "When I am driving in heavy traffic, I turn the radio off, refuse to talk with passengers and concentrate on the task. I cannot imagine how someone can text and drive at the same time."
After being virtually scolded by his elders, a somewhat chastised Lewis responded with a final comment.
"I can't text and drive with this new phone anyway, so I don't do it because it isn't safe," he wrote. "I just was offering the perspective of the young and a little bit of devil's advocate. I don't think people should text and drive. I also think talking on the phone is more dangerous.