Drivers called to join the ‘It Can Wait’ movement

Last week, the leadership of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, Louisiana State Police and Louisiana Chiefs Association joined Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta for a press conference to encourage Louisianans to take the ‘It Can Wait Pledge’ to never text and drive.

“As wireless has become a more central part of all of our lives, we must ensure that we use the technology safely, which means never texting while driving,” said PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta. “All of us can make an impact on this problem by taking the pledge and sharing our commitment with our friends and family.  I urge every driver across the state to take the It Can Wait pledge today and help us end texting while driving.”

“Far too often, my officers see firsthand the devastating results of texting while driving,” said Colonel Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent. “Changing behavior is hard to do, but we can if we work together to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving and make it socially unacceptable to do so.”

“We’ve seen how community action and shared commitments can change behavior behind the wheel,” said Michael Ranatza, Executive Director of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. “From wearing seat belts to drinking and driving, we’ve seen how speaking up to our friends and family have made our roads safer.  I have no doubt we can do the same with texting and driving.”

“Only through a concerted effort by law enforcement and community will we be able to change the outlook drivers have regarding attentive driving,” said Fabian Blache, Jr., Executive Director of the Louisiana Chiefs Association. “We must ensure they know the statistics compiled as well as the penalties beyond an accident for failing to pay full attention while driving and avoid the use of distracting devices.”

Individuals can now sign up at ItCanWait.com to get resources that will help them share their commitment on social media and personalize the movement on the streets of their communities on key activation days. Aspiring to create a social stigma around this dangerous habit of texting while driving, Drive 4 Pledges Day will focus on getting individuals involved in taking the pledge to never text and drive while encouraging others in their community to do the same. These individuals will join AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile US, Inc., Verizon and more than 200 other organizations by sharing their commitment not to text and drive while increasing awareness of the dangers.

On Sept. 19, Drive 4 Pledges Day, supporters of the movement were called to help spread the word to their families, friends and communities. Advocates are encouraged to do things like change their social profile photos and banner to It Can Wait graphics, and share their personal pledge stories using the hashtag #ItCanWait. Offline activations will include hosting pledge drives and handing posters in their schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. All materials such as social graphics and posters are available for download from ItCanWait.com.

In 2008, Louisiana was one of the first states in the country to ban texting while driving. On Aug. 1 of this year, a new law became effective banning the use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while driving. Sheriffs and other public safety officials across Louisiana are working to ensure that drivers understand the laws of the state, use wireless devices safely and drive safely on the roads.

To make your driving and cell phone use experience a little safer, law enforcement suggests the following safety tips:

• Obey the law.  Don’t text or use social media while you’re behind the wheel.
• Before you get behind the wheel, get to know your phone’s features, such as speed dial and redial.  Use a hands free device when possible.
• Assess the traffic and dial sensibly.  Ask your passenger to dial for you, or make calls when you are not moving.
• Never read or write while the car is moving. If you must write a note or take down a phone number during a conversation, PULL OVER!
• Be careful when pulling over to place calls. To avoid being a crime victim, don’t stop in dangerous areas and keep your car doors locked.
• Position your phone within easy reach or let your voice mail answer rather than taking your eyes off the road to look for the phone.
• Let the person you are speaking to know you are driving.
• Do not engage in emotional conversations as you will be focused primarily on the call rather than your driving.
• Dial 911 to report an emergency-it’s free from your wireless phone.

“Individuals sharing the message with friends and family within their social networks and in their communities can extend the impact of the movement beyond what any group of companies alone can do,” said Sonia Perez, President of AT&T Louisiana. “We hope the public will join in sharing this important message with those they care for and in Drive 4 Pledges to save lives and continue to reinforce a simple message: It Can Wait…no text is worth a life.”

In fact, a ConnectSafely.org1 survey found that individuals who speak up can have a profound impact, particularly on teens.

• 78 percent of teen drivers say they’re likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it’s wrong or stupid.
• 90 percent say they’d stop if a friend in the car asked them to.
• 93 percent would stop if a parent in the car asked them to.
• 44 percent say that they would be thankful if a passenger complained about their texting while driving.

The It Can Wait movement is making a difference. One-in-three people who’ve seen the texting while driving message say they’ve changed their driving habits2, 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 more than 2 million views since Aug. 8. To take the pledge and get more information, visit www.ItCanWait.com.