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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert asked Utahns Wednesday to put their cellphones down and give up texting while driving. It's part of AT&T's Don't Text and Drive Pledge Day in Utah, but the message may not be loud enough.
We all know texting and driving is dangerous — take the car-versus-bus accident in Roy Wednesday morning for example. A woman smashed her car into a parked school bus because she was trying to use her cellphone. She received minor injuries, but her car suffered severe damage.
Unfortunately, stories like this aren't enough, even though we all claim to be law-abiding citizens. Look on any busy street in Utah and you'll find all kinds of violations.
And these violators are exactly why a team of professionals spent the day Wednesday working with teenagers at Cottonwood High School. They hope their message will overpower that texting temptation before the teens even get behind the wheel.
Angela Siegfried is the director of learning and performance for Allied insurance. As part of her job, she teaches teens and parents the potential consequences of distracted driving.
"The truth is driving while texting is equivalent to being at a .08 (blood-alcohol level)," Siegfried said.
According to the government website Distraction.gov, in 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, and an estimated 416,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
Such distractions include:
- Using a cellphone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
One method Siegfried uses to get the message across is a driving simulator. It's set up like a routine drive, with deer, cars and pedestrians all passing in front of the driver. The driving student is asked to text while steering the car, and they usually don't make it home safely.
Cottonwood High student Zach Scott said he got the message loud and clear. "Don't test and drive. It doesn't work," he said.
If caught texting and driving, you could face a $750 fine and up to three months in jail. But if you injure someone, you'll be looking at a $10,000 fine and a possible 15 years in prison.
There is a new app available for Blackberry users that acts like a voicemail. If someone sends you a text, a message will be sent back telling them you're driving. With the app, your phone won't make a sound, so you won't be tempted to answer.