East Providence High School students sign anti-texting and driving pledge

East Providence It Can Wait 2

EAST PROVIDENCE — Following the tremendous success of last year’s “Txting & Drving…It Can Wait” campaign, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) are again bringing attention to the dangers of texting and driving with a statewide high school awareness tour, which visited East Providence High School Tuesday, Jan. 28.

Joined by East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares, Rhode Island State Police Major James Manni, RIDOT Office on Highway Safety Supervisor Francisco Lovera and AT&T Regional Director for External Affairs Joseph Shannon, the group urged East Providence High students to pledge to never text and drive.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin presents a citation to East Providence High School Vice Principal Shani Wallace for the school’s participation in the campaign.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin presents a citation to East Providence High School Vice Principal Shani Wallace for the school’s participation in the campaign.

The assembly began with EPHS Vice Principal Shani Wallace demonstrating a driving simulator that showed how much texting affects a driver’s ability to maintain control of a vehicle – after receiving a simulated text message, Vice Principal Wallace “crashed.” A short speaking program followed the driving simulator, and then students, teachers and guests viewed an AT&T documentary featuring families impacted by texting and driving accidents. At the conclusion of the presentation, students and faculty were asked to sign a pledge to not text and drive.  More than 450 seniors at the high school took the pledge.

“Texting while driving is a major problem, both in Rhode Island and across the country. We have seen multiple accidents right here in Rhode Island in which distracted driving and/or texting while driving was a contributing factor,” said Attorney General Kilmartin, who sponsored the state’s landmark legislation in 2009 banning texting while driving, as well as this year’s legislation to increase penalties for drivers caught texting and driving. “Just as it took time and education to convince people to wear seat belts, it will take time to change attitudes about how dangerous it is to text and drive. To date, we have made 28 school visits across Rhode Island, where over 10,500 students took the pledge not to text and drive. We will continue spreading this important message: when it comes to texting and driving, It Can Wait.”

“I am grateful for Attorney General Kilmartin to bring this campaign to our students today.  Hopefully it will help everyone think twice about reading or sending a text while driving.  Even though it only takes a few seconds to send or read a text that can be an eternity when you consider how little time it takes for a child to run into the street or for traffic to suddenly slow in front of you.  All in all the possibility of a tragedy due to texting is totally preventable.  We just need to put the phone away and wait,” said Ms. Wallace.

A recent ConnectSafely.org survey1 found that individuals who speak up can have a profound impact, particularly on teens:
78% of teen drivers said they’re likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it’s wrong or stupid.
90% say they’d stop if a friend in the car asked them to.
93% would stop if a parent in the car asked them to.
44% say they would be thankful if a passenger complained about their texting while driving.

Rhode Island State Police Colonel and Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety Steven G. O’Donnell added, “Distracted Drivers are a serious problem on our roadways.  As the enforcement arm of this campaign, we are pleased to join Attorney General Kilmartin, DOT and educators to get the message out to our most vulnerable population, DON’T TEXT and DRIVE!”

“Young drivers need to learn that the consequences to texting and driving can be deadly,” said RIDOT Director Lewis. “As we visit area high schools, we will be armed with the same safety message:  Don’t text and drive. It Can Wait.”

AT&T first began its “It Can Wait” campaign discouraging texting and driving in 2009, and the campaign is making a difference: one in three people who have seen the texting while driving documentary say they have changed their driving habits, the campaign has inspired more than 2.5 million pledges never to text and drive, and the recently-launched “From One Second to the Next” documentary has received over 2 million views since August 8.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Attorney General Kilmartin and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving,” said Patricia Jacobs, President of AT&T in New England.  “We hope that the result of our efforts will be that thousands of teen drivers – and their parents – across Rhode Island will pledge to never text and drive.”

To take the pledge and find additional information on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, please visit www.att.com/itcanwait.

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