Texting, Tweeting, Social Networking, And Driving A Lethal Combination – The ‘Book Mystique

According to the National Safety Council, more than 100,000 automobile crashes a year involve texting while driving. Misuse of cellphones is becoming one of the most destructive and too often deadly threats to public safety. And according to an AT&T Wireless survey, 75 percent of teens say that texting while driving is “common” among their friends.

The Text Kills project is a donation-supported outreach program that regularly partners with law enforcement, fire/safety authorities, schools, other non-profits, community outreach programs, and corporate safety officers in an effort to educate and increase public awareness concerning the dangers of cell phone use while driving.

Text Kills has also been conducting an Indiegogo campaign (now concluded) to raise funds that will be used to produce a one-of-a-kind, educational documentary on texting while driving, working title: “Smartphones of Mass Destruction,” that will focus four main aspects of the relatively new, and very dangerous byproduct, of using mobile technology while driving (TWD), — the stories, science, psychology, technology, and laws surrounding the practice, which the organization says has become the nation’s number one killer of teens, with 3,331 people dying in incidents caused by TWD in 2011.

Their efforts will support a new national advertising campaign, a nationwide texting-while-driving simulator tour, retail presence in tens of thousands of stores, and outreach to millions of consumers with a special focus throughout the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day—known as the 100 Deadliest Days on the roads for teen drivers.1 The 2013 campaign drive will culminate on Sept. 19, when efforts turn towards encouraging everyone to get out in their community and advocate involvement on behalf of the movement.

It Can Wait originally launched by AT&T, is another campaign created to end texting and driving, and has evolved into a movement advocating that no message is so urgent that it is worth diverting attention from the road and risking lives in the process.

It Can Wait currently is supported by the four largest U.S. wireless carriers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, US, Inc.– more than 200 other organizations and thousands of concerned individuals. The movement has inspired more than 2 million pledges through ItCanWait.com, on Facebook, through text-to-pledge and tweet-to-pledge, and at events, including the texting-while-driving simulator tour, retail presence in tens of thousands of stores, and outreach to millions of consumers with a special focus throughout the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day — known as the 100 Deadliest Days on the roads for teen drivers. The 2013 campaign drive will culminate on Sept. 19, when efforts turn towards encouraging everyone to get out in their community and advocate involvement on behalf of the movement.

It’s understatement to observe that injuring or killing someone because you were texting while driving is a life-changing experience. Unhappily, here are countless stories of people who took their eyes off the road for a second and ended up in an accident that changed their lives and the lives of others forever. People living with the consequences of such experiences are the focus of a new documentary film created by acclaimed Hollywood filmmaker Werner Herzog that’s intended to reach millions with a message on the dangers of texting and driving. In the 35-minute film, Herzog expands on the stories he tells through the 30-second “Texting & Driving … It Can Wait” spots launched in May by wireless carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, Inc. and Verizon. By giving voice to the individuals who caused the accidents and the many people whose lives have forever been changed by them, Herzog shows the devastating aftermath that can be created when a driver turns their attention to a single, meaningless text.

“When you get a message while driving, it’s hard not to pick up your phone,” says Herzog in a release. “With this film, we want to help make people more aware of the potential consequences of that action.”

The It Can Wait campaign helps drive awareness of the dangers of texting while driving, encourages individuals to pledge not to text and drive, and enables those who have made a personal commitment to influence others. By sharing tools like this film with schools and safety advocates, and by making them available free to the public, the carriers are working to encourage responsible use of wireless technology.

The documentary will be available at ItCanWait.com, and will also be distributed to more than 40,000 high schools nationwide, and hundreds of safety organizations and government agencies. The four carriers will post it to their YouTube sites, and it will be available as on-demand content for customers of AT&T U-verse.

In Canada, a campaign called ‘Is It Worth It?’ developed by youth, for youth, and funded by State Farm Canada, aims to reduce distracted, impaired and aggressive driving by teens. By challenging students in a multimedia competition, students can take the message of safe driving and smart decision-making to their peers and community members. Through hands-on learning and activism, students who create the best public service announcement can win over $5,000 in prizes.Teachers across Canada implement the program into their classrooms, using the subject matter for media studies and filmmaking assignments.

Only 13 percent of Canadian licensed drivers are between the ages of 16 and 24, but but according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation account for nearly 25% of the motor vehicle related deaths and injuries. Canadian teenagers face a higher risk of death per mile/kilometre driven than all other age groups — about three times the rate for 35 to 44 year old licensed drivers — and the most common way for young Canadians to be injured or killed is when they are a driver or a passenger in a vehicle.

“Driver safety, especially among adolescents, is a key priority for Parachute,” says Dr. Phil Groff, VP of Programs at Parachute, a Canadian national charitable organization dedicated to preventing injuries and saving lives. “One reason for the overrepresentation in collision statistics among young drivers is that while youth have always experienced emotional and developmental changes that impact on their risk behind the wheel, they are now growing up in a new social setting dominated by social networking influences. These challenges can make decisions around driving while distracted or impaired very difficult.”

The situation is just as serious in the U.S. where the latest State Farm/Harris Interactive survey — conducted among 14-18 year olds, reveals that teen drivers are aware of road dangers but continue in some risky behaviours anyway. The survey found that 49% of licensed drivers admit to texting while behind the wheel, and 2 out of 5 believe they have no control over whether or not they will get into a car crash despite research showing that 75% of crashes involving teens are caused by driver error.

“More needs to be done to teach teens about risky driving behaviours like driving while impaired or having too many passengers in their car,” says Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm. “There is always room for improvement when it comes to practicing safe driving; teens’ number one priority should be paying attention to the road.”

There are numerous driving practices that put teens at a greater risk for injury on the road, but distracted driving and impaired driving are the two most problematic among this age cohort.

Parachute found that passengers are a top risk factor for youth related motor vehicle collisions, with a 2008 U.S. study finding that two or more peer passengers will at least triple the risk of crash for teenaged drivers.

Roughly 40 per cent of teen drivers who were fatally injured on the road had consumed alcohol before the incident, and one-third of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes are between the ages of 16 and 24, and texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash than non-texting drivers according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

State Farm and Parachute are joining forces in a major new campaign to tackle the #1 cause of death for young Canadians – motor vehicle crashes, and notwithstanding driver qualification measures like graduated driver licensing, Canadian teenagers 16-19 remain at a higher risk of death per mile/kilometre than all other age groups.

The campaign led by Parachute and supported by State Farm will involve a number of elements aimed at bringing greater awareness to the issue, including establishing a National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW) in October, developing a central website to offer teen driver safety resources, creating a curriculum for high schools and choosing youth ambassadors from across Canada. For more information see http://www.parachutecanada.org/programs/topic/C281 and http://www.parachutecanada.org/news-releases/item/tackling-the-number-1-cause-of-teen-deaths#sthash.gCRsORhZ.dpuf

Text Kills, which plans to provide its documentary free of charge to schools and educators around the country, has found in its research is that in many instances, especially among teens, the mere temptation to text has been replaced with an actual texting addiction. They note that kids are staying inside and texting in chat rooms rather than pursuing face-to-face human contact, and that amazingly, many teens today are choosing to have cell phones instead of cars, because they perceive their iPhones and Android devices as providing the same, if not greater, “keys” to their “freedom.” Among other things, the “Smartphones of Mass Destruction” film exposes a generational gap that technology has created, and proposes some creative solutions to facilitate bringing people, friends and families closer together.

Reportedly only about 30% of 16-year-olds these days even bother to get driver’s licenses — with the number of U.S. teen license-holders having peaked at 12 million back in 1978, and now numbers fewer than 10 million, even though the general population has grown substantially over the past 35 years. NASCAR, America’s most popular motor racing series, has found fewer people showing up at the tracks or tuning in to watch races on TV, in contrast to a decade or so ago, when NASCAR could brag that it was the fastest–growing spectator sport on the planet. A major element of the fall-off is declining interest in cars and autosport among the texting and Tweeting demographic.

It’s certainly a major shift from when I was 16 forty-odd years ago when virtually every male teenager I knew was car focused, or at least pretended to be. Our communications in those days were conducted face-to-face (often in cars while cruising or parked on the strip) or less frequently by landline telephone, centring largely on two topics — cars and girls (in no particular order). Most of our social life was conducted while cruising in, parked in, or otherwise around cars. If you’ve ever seen George Lucas’s 1973 flick American Graffiti, which received a Best Picture Academy Award nomination and the United States Library of Congress has declared culturally significant and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, it provides a dramatized but commendably accurate depiction of teen car and cruising culture in the 1960s. If you’ve never seen it, and especially if you’re under 30, I encourage you to rent a copy. It’ll help you understand what I’m talking about.

The Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown observes that today, most young people live in urban environments and learn to live without cars, conducting their social lives on the Internet via smartphones and tablets. The “greenwashing” kids these days are universally subjected to in the education systems also indubitably creates an element of anti-car peer-pressure among young people, although http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/10/editorial-on-the-coming-carlessness/ The Truth About Cars Website Editor and publisher Edward Niedermeyer (self-professed car nut who discusses automobiles seven days a week, but doesn’t own a car) suggests that that’s usually more of an after-the-fact justification for carlessness than a first principle.

Niedermeyer notes that while over the past century or so, North America’s youth have gravitated toward the automobile as a vehicle (both actually and metaphorically) of personal freedom, “an escape pod from the world of adult responsibilities and a way to connect with other young people.” However, today he observes that for the new carless generations, dominant values have been stood on their proverbial heads. There’s even a semi-organized car-free movement in North America, sort of like ethical vegetarianism. For an example, see: http://carfreeusa.blogspot.com/

Of course, back in the day too many kids got hurt or killed in automobiles, even without the distractions of cellphones, but many of us took pride and satisfaction in developing and honing our driving skills, which kept us focused on what we were doing and helped with staying out of trouble. Today, “If a young person does buy a car,” Niedermeyer observes, “it’s almost always because they need it for their job.” He notes that while debt, insurance, maintenance and speeding tickets are real-life downsides of auto ownership, the crucial issue in the “uncooling” of cars is the image of car ownership as a a complex of obligations all of which add up to less freedom, and the ascendancy of the Internet has clearly played a role in this dynamic as well. “Thanks to computers, Internet and cell phones,” he observes, “kids are more connected to each other and the world around them than ever before… the younger generations boast gearheads who can go toe-to-toe with any of the last 50 years. But they’re an increasingly marginalized crowd. Cars have largely lost their masculine mystique, making cars which rely on an appeal to manliness seem outdated, desperate and, well, old-fashioned.”

Too true, although there are indeed some holdouts in the under-30 (or is it 40?) crowd, and reportedly still some vitality in youth car-culture here and there — in California for example. One of my daughters is a consummate car-freak and hotrodder, although she would vigorously protest that “manliness” doesn’t have to be part of the equation. She can more than hold her own in any serious conversation among gearheads. However, my other daughter, an academic now in her late 20s, is one of those in her generational demographic who has never bothered to take a driver’s test.

With few exceptions, real car people I know are grizzled and graybearded middle-aged boomers like me (or older). Not an auspicious outlook for the future of hotrodding or NASCAR unless they, and the car culture community in general can find a way to make itself relevant and attractive again to a critical mass of younger fans. Frankly, I feel sorry for the kids. I like computers and work on the Internet, but there’s no way I would swap a youth spent immersed in real world car culture for the virtual world of texting, tweeting, and Facebooking.

Or as forum poster “boilerman10” commented on the Daily Kos, the Gen. Ys have never heard the roar of a type 1 Hemi DeSoto or Chrysler pre-1958, never heard or saw a flathead Ford super-modified doing over 130 miles per hour on a half mile track and then backing down for the curve and reaccelerating. “That sound is incredible….” Gen. Y “never saw how Chevrolet revolutionized hotrodding with the 283 and 327 engines. I am so glad I lived during that time. Poor Gen. Y.” I agree, it’s sad, and makes me appreciate all the more how good we had it.

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