TxDOT brings distracted driving simulator to Amarillo

Today Amarillo drivers experienced firsthand just how distracted driving can lead to dangerous crashes through a distracted driving simulator.

"You know the importance of this is to try and bring awareness and educate drivers and let them know it is very dangerous to text and drive," said Gary Rich, president of Share the Road, Amarillo.

TxDOT joined with AT&T and Share the Road Amarillo to bring a distracted driving simulator to Amarillo for TxDOT's "Talk, Text, Crash" campaign this month. The "It Can Wait" simulator allows drivers to sit behind the wheel and watch a video monitor while operating an actual vehicle. The driver is then talked to, asked questions, and asked to take out their cell phone at a certain speed while "driving". Every driver's turn eventually ended in a crash.

"That's the main point that TxDOT is trying to get across is that it can wait," said Rich.

"If we can just impact or impress enough people that can change and save one life and make somebody put their phone down, then all of the efforts worth it," said Cameron Monroe, regional director of external affairs for AT&T. "We want to get that message out to stop it, that nothing is so important it can't wait until you get to your destination."

According to Robert White, a TxDOT traffic specialist, he says people do not really understand everything that is considered distracted driving. He says the list includes women putting on make up, men shaving, admonishing a child in the back seat, or having an argument with a spouse. Any of those things can cause someone to stop focusing on the road and can lead to a crash.

"People don't understand that distracted driving is anything that has anything to do with anything that's in your vehicle that your focus and attention is on. And what we try to get people to understand is that even a passenger in your vehicle or you reading a map or whatever, is a hazard," said White.

Here in Amarillo, there is a handsfree ordinance while driving. However, the state of Texas does not require that people do not text and drive by law.

"Texas has looked at that law a couple of times in sessions past and has had some very good responses from legislators in terms of passing that law. But it's very hard to regulate behavior," said Monroe.

Nationally, texting while driving causes 1,600,000 crashes per year. 11 teenagers are killed every day in texting related crashes and nearly 25% of all crashes are caused by people using their phone while behind the wheel. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, texting while driving has the same danger equivalent as driving after having four beers. It also makes drivers 23 times more likely to crash.