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September, 2012 Issue

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9 online articles from this issue. Next


AWARE Texting Show

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If there is one singular problem that has arisen with the advent and rise of mobile communications technology, many would argue that texting while driving has become the most serious. It's also one of the most dangerous and deadly behaviors plaguing young people and has even surpassed the worry over our youth drinking and driving. We do what we can to keep our young people from drinking, and certainly from doing so behind the wheel. It's illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol and illegal for anyone of any age to drive while intoxicated. Almost everyone under 25 has a cell phone (we don't have figures, but seriously) and most of them probably use their devices while driving and, very few states have taken up meaningful legislation on correcting this issue. Car accidents are, by the way, the number one cause of death in teenagers each year in the U.S. We obviously cannot definitively link all of these to texting and driving, but the reasonable person would assume there's ample correlation.

Here's some number soup for you, from the CDC. In 2009, about 3,000 teens between 15-19 were killed in the U.S in automotive crashes, with 350,000 treated in ERs. They represent only 14% of our total population, yet account for 30% of costs of annual motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% among females. Before any of you guys go off on female teen drivers with make-up and cell phones, from 2006 statistics, male drivers were about twice as likely to have a fatal accident as their fairer counterparts. The likelihood continues to go up for teens with passengers and those within the first year of having their licenses.

So, it's a good thing some private corporations are doing something, including one of the largest cell phone service providers in AT&T, along with one of the largest vendors of novelties, games and preventative education in CEP Inc and PEERS Foundation (Professionals Encouraging Educational Reform) Foundation. Mike Seymore, CEO of CEP and founder of PEERS Foundation has taken up a real passion with this issue, so much in fact that his company has, in conjunction with and sponsored by AT&T, developed the premiere texting and driving educational course available in the AWARE-TXT driving simulator. Mike comments first hand on the evolution and implementation of this uniquely important program.

"AT&T does deserve a lot of credit," he says, "as it has launched a massive campaign to help prevent the texting-while-driving epidemic from becoming worse, something it took AT&T's making waves to get other carriers to take notice." Full disclosure-as of this writing - other major carriers have invested in these types of campaigns, just not at the same level or mainstream notice as AT&T. "AT&T, as a leader in the telecommunications industry, recognized this sort of pandemic in distracted driving deaths that spiked suddenly a few years ago from around 2,000 a year to over 6,000," Mike says. "They have set out to do something about it and are taking the initiative in multiple venues to make a difference in this problem. Like working with mobile app programmers to raise awareness among teenagers in a fun way, and enabling adults to set restrictions on their phones (like an auto answer on text messages that detects movement in the phone and withholds texts until the driver is out of the car)."

While AT&T is obviously enormously successful from the mobile phone market, they are at least taking proactive measures to be a part of the solution, not the problem. And this is where CEP/PEERS comes in. "AT&T has funded us to go out and do simulation training with the public, not only educating them about the dangers of distracted driving, but giving them the chance to use a high quality simulator to really help drive the message home."

Mike makes a stark point, regarding the deficit between the level of awareness of something as dangerous as drunk driving and the apparent apathy so many people have toward texting and driving. "Everyone knows someone who has been affected in some way by drunk driving. Now, just imagine, statistics have shown distracted drivers who are texting to be eight times more likely to cause an accident than an impaired driver. That is a sobering thought, no pun intended."

According to Mike, AT&T has invested tens of millions of dollars toward this cause in this year alone. "Through national campaigns and commercials, apps, online training, simulation training and more and, they are just getting started. For our PEERS foundation to be picked as an official platform to deliver the "It Can Wait" message for AT&T I think speaks volumes. Right now we are on a 200 city tour educating people about the dangers of texting and driving specifically for AT&T. I am happy to be associated with a company that takes this issue as seriously as our PEERS foundation does."

The program allows campuses to have their own proof statement scenarios right in front of their students. "We know we can lecture at students all day long and it's in one ear and out the other, especially with young adults. What PEERS Foundation has set out to do is make the delivery system for the messages we feel need to be relayed more palatable, whether it's nutrition, antismoking, distracted driving, drunk driving or texting while driving specifically. We allow everyone involved to become their own proof statement through the use of a high-quality, scientifically developed simulator. We use an actual automobile, modified specially to allow for play in the wheel, accurate physics and a real sensory experience. When students finish with it and get out, their eyes are always a little wide, skin pale, breathing shallow and when we ask what they thought, the reply is always 'I didn't know it was that hard.' We give them conclusive, trackable data sets with proof to let them know how many times they crossed the yellow line, what they might have hit and what could have happened in a real scenario. It has proven to be quite effective and we hope to continue through the help of AT&T to spread this message to our young people throughout the high school and college markets."

For more information on bringing the AWARE TXT program to your campus, contact CEP Inc., at 866.288.8126 or Mike Seymore at mike@cepincorporated.com.