The University of Mary Washington community will be able to experience firsthand the dangers of distracted driving on Wednesday, Aug. 26. The University has teamed up with AT&T and DRIVE SMART Virginia to bring the “It Can Wait” virtual reality driving simulator to Ball Circle on the Fredericksburg campus. The simulator will be set up in front of the new University Center between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
“Research shows that distracted driving is highly prevalent among college students, who often express comfort and confidence in making phone calls and texting while driving,” said Juliette Landphair, vice president for Student Affairs at UMW. “We look forward to partnering with AT&T and DRIVE SMART Virginia to involve students in simulated circumstances that show the profound risks that accompany these behaviors.”
UMW is one of three Virginia universities selected to experience the simulator and is among more than 100 scheduled for communities nationwide.
Seven-in-10 people engage in smartphone activities while driving, said Vince Apruzzese, AT&T’s regional vice president for External Affairs in Virginia. “Simply put, using a smartphone while driving can be deadly—for drivers, their passengers and for everyone on the road. Behind the wheel, everything can change in the blink of an eye. A post, a selfie, a text, a scroll, an email—one look is all it takes. This new simulation shows the real consequences of looking at your phone while driving.
The event coincides with “Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident Month in Virginia,” which was created under House Joint Resolution Number 593. The resolution, which was introduced by Del. Margaret Ransone and adopted in February 2015, says, in part: “Virginians are asked to observe Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident Month by honoring individuals and families that have been lost due to traffic crashes and remembering to always drive safely and responsibly.” The resolution was inspired by Christina Dempsey whose sister and nieces perished in a traffic accident on August 27, 2013.
Del. Ransone and Ms. Dempsey will attend the event at 9 a.m.
“Distracted driving has become a major problem on today’s highways and the cost of this dangerous behavior for many families has been very high,” Del. Ransone said. “August is one of the deadliest months for traffic crashes, and there must be a renewed focus on safe driving practices and the severe consequences of distracted driving.”
DRIVE SMART Virginia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing distracted driving on Virginia’s roads. It Can Wait is a national movement urging drivers to pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone on the site. Then, they can share their pledge via Twitter (#ItCanWait) and Facebook. The campaign started by focusing on not texting and driving. It has now expanded to the broader dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel.