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As communities reopen, Kennedy, AAA, AT&T, New York State Police team up to raise awareness of traffic safety & distractions

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Wed, May 20th 2020 02:25 pm
Metro Creative Graphics
Metro Creative Graphics

With summer road trips expected to be a popular form of travel, motorists encouraged to drive safely

New York State Sen. and Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee Tim Kennedy, AT&T, AAA Western and Central New York and New York State Police teamed up to raise awareness of traffic safety as the unofficial start of summer is here.

A press release explained, “As communities emerge from the global pandemic and begin to reopen, motorists are facing new distractions as they get behind the wheel, including face masks, hand sanitizer and gloves, not to mention being inundated with smartphone notifications. This also marks a dangerous time for young, vulnerable drivers as AAA’s ‘100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers’ gets underway – that’s the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when fatal teen automobile crashes increase by 17%.

“This summer, AAA expects road trips to be the most popular form of travel, so motorists need to be prepared with safe driving habits.”

The community partners held a virtual press conference, with social distancing in place, to call attention to traffic safety concerns as regions reopen from the pandemic and more motorists venture out. Warm weather encourages such activity – confirmed by AAA’s road service requests throughout the pandemic, which spiked on warmer days with more traffic.

The New York State Police outlined summer traffic safety enforcement and warned drivers to obey the rules of the road. AT&T highlighted the extreme dangers of distracted driving to educate and remind all local drivers that a post, a selfie, a text, a scroll, an email – one look when behind the wheel is all it takes to lose a life.

The press release continued, “The message is especially vital as families head out on summer road trips. Near or far, they are encouraged make a family pact not to drive distracted. After all, it can wait.”

Kennedy, in partnership with AAA, AT&T and NYS Police, reminded motorists that more children, joggers and cyclists will be on the roads as the weather warms up. He encouraged everyone to use caution.

“Last year, an estimated 37 million Americans were expected to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend, but this year during this pandemic, that number should be much lower as we continue to stay socially distanced to protect public health,” Kennedy said. “It’s important to remember that, right now, the safest place to be is still at home. If you do decide to get outdoors, whether by bicycling or by heading out on a hike or run, covering your face with a mask is still essential, and remaining six feet apart on sidewalks or bike paths is key to ensure this virus does not continue to spread.”

Tony Spada, president and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York, said, “Teens, especially, have a bad case of cabin fever after missing out on school and extracurricular activities over the past two months. Memorial Day marks the beginning of the period that AAA calls the ‘100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers’ – the time from Memorial Day to Labor Day – when fatal teen crashes climb 17% compared to the rest of the year. We need to be good role models for our young drivers.”

Kevin Hanna, director of external affairs for AT&T, said, “As drivers from upstate New York return to the roads as regions across the state reopen and with the warmer weather upon us, it is important to remember that using your smartphone for activities like messaging or social posts while driving can be very dangerous. Many of us have become increasingly dependent on our smartphones while at home during the global pandemic to stay connected, to help educate students at home, to work and for entertainment, but it is imperative to remember to put it down while behind the wheel. AT&T is proud to be collaborating with Sen. Kennedy, AAA and New York State Police to remind drivers of all ages in upstate New York of the many dangers of distracted driving.”

Trooper James O’Callaghan, public information officer for the New York State Police – Troop A headquarters – said, “As we go into Memorial Day weekend honoring our veterans, this usually marks the beginning of summer. If your holiday weekend plans involve alcohol, come up with a safe plan to get home. State Police will be out, highly visible, looking for impaired and reckless drivers throughout Memorial Day weekend to keep you and your family safe on the roadways.”

Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA Western and Central New York, said, “AAA has noticed a new wave of distractions since the pandemic broke out – face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves – AAA reminds drivers to sanitize while parked and avoid such distractions when driving a vehicle.”

Research by AT&T shows attitudes toward the dangers of distracted driving are softening, and the behaviors are getting worse. Nearly all those surveyed consider smartphone distracted driving to be dangerous, but nearly 9 in 10 people admit to doing it anyway. The research also shows that 7 in 10 drivers say their smartphone has become essential for getting around. It also revealed a sharp rise in the consumption of immersive content behind the wheel. Video watching, video chatting and playing games while driving doubled compared to 2015, and more than 30% of drivers have admitted to doing at least one of the actions while behind the wheel. However, the research reveals that more than half of people are more likely to stop driving distracted if a friend or passenger pressures them to do so.

AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign urges drivers to visit www.ItCanWait.com, where they can join the more than 40 million people who have taken the pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone, and share their pledge with others via Twitter (#ItCanWait) and Facebook. Launched over a decade ago as a campaign focused on not texting and driving, it has now expanded its focus to the broader dangers of smartphone use while driving. The campaign has also launched a new virtual reality (VR) experience to that users firsthand the dangers of distracted driving in a full 3-D immersive setting, which is available for use at the “It Can Wait” website and can be previewed at http://www.ItCanWait.com/vr. To help those drivers who can’t resist their phones, AT&T offers a free app, DriveMode, for smartphones that deactivates texting and other alerts when the car is moving and sends a friendly away message to people texting.

For additional information on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, visit www.ItCanWait.com.

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