The nationwide #ItCanWait campaign pledging to not text when behind the wheel of a car now is under way.

Distracted driving is a significant problem, and waiting to respond to a text message can save a life. We all have done it, and we all can say “Nope, let’s focus on the moment,” and respond later.

This is a message we can’t repeat enough: Put the cell phone down when you’re behind that wheel.

The #ItCanWait campaign is spearheaded by AT&T and gives people a chance to take a pledge and help themselves and others realize it’s OK to wait.

This pledge comes on the heals of a AAA report released recently about teen driving, and just a few weeks before prom season.

There’s significant evidence that distracted driving among teen drivers is a much more serious problem than we realize, according to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study.


The foundation finds distractions are a factor in nearly six of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes, a number that’s four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.

In nearly 1,700 videos taken from in-vehicle event recorders of teen drivers, foundation researchers analyzed the 6 seconds leading up to the  crash and discovered that distractions were a factor in more than half —  58% —  of the crashes they studied. Of this number, 89% of the teen drivers were in road-departure crashes while 76% were in rear-end crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration previously estimated that driving distraction was a factor in only 14% of all teen driver crashes.

Researchers found teen drivers who manipulated their cell phones (calling, texting) had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 out of the final 6 seconds leading up to a crash.

The researchers also measured reaction times in rear-end crashes and found teen drivers who used a cell phone failed to react more than half the time before the impact, meaning they crashed without braking or steering.

High crash rate

The foundation’s research is important because teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States.

About 963,000 drivers from 16 to 19 years of age were involved in a police-reported crash in 2013, which is the most recent year of available data. These crashes resulted in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths.

Graduated licenses work

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws allow new drivers to gain practical experience in a relatively safer driving environment by restricting exposure to risky situations. Thirty-three states, including Connecticut, have laws that prevent cell phone use by teens.

Connecticut is one of several states with a comprehensive GDL law that prohibits novice teen drivers from using any type of electronic device, including hand-held or hands-free cell phones.

During the first six months after receiving a license, teen drivers may transport only parents or guardians. During the second six months, they are allowed to transport siblings. Violations can result in some stiff fines, including license suspension.

Be pro-active

Since parents play a critical role in preventing distracted driving, AAA recommends that parents restrict passengers and teach teens about distracted driving dangers early during the driving process. For more information, visit TeenDriving.AAA.com.

But thanks to that #ItCanWait campaign, teens can play a role in reminding their parents to wait to text, too.