A harrowing virtual text-and-drive experience awaits in Long Branch
If you wonder why smartphone use while driving concerns so many of us, the chances are good that you haven't been on either end of a close call - yet. Monday in Long Branch, one the global leaders in wireless communications brings you to the virtual-reality edge.
AT&T's long-running "It Can Wait" series takes you on a 3-D, as a passenger in a car driven by someone who keeps going back to the phone for a variety of reasons.
AT&T partners with the Robert Wood Johnson-Barnabas health care chain for the tour, and will bring the initiative om the near future to New Brunswick and Jersey City.
You'll find the display prominently at Pier Village's Festival Plaza, on Ocean Avenue, between 11 AM and 2 PM. At noon, speakers from RWJ-Barnabas and Monmouth Assemblywoman Joann Downey will offer their supportive observations..
Sitting behind the wheel of a mockup car, enveloped in virtual headgear, you're in for a trip that becomes increasingly white-knuckle with every chancy encounter.
When it's over, you'll be urged to commit to a pledge to refrain from any and all smartphone activity when you're driving. If you do, you'll be adding to nearly 10,000,000 people who have taken the pledge.
According to AT&T spokesperson Ellen Webner, the arrangement befits the experience. "When you're 'driving,' people try to grab something to stop the accident," she says. "The driver in this video feels in complete control. That's not necessarily the case," as you learn as a passenger.
Naturally, the message is that texting while driving is a potential life-shortener. But are you aware how dangerous it is?
"We've done studies. Seven in 10 drivers say they engage in a lot of smartphone activities, not just texting...checking e-mails, posting on social media, taking photographs," Webner says.
"There is this unrealistic feeling that when you're in your car, you have complete control. Even that slight diversion of a few seconds - taking your eyes off the road - is extremely dangerous," she said.
AT&T's original "It Can Wait" series concentrated on texting. But rapid technological advances in just a few short years resulted in a revamped, expanded version that's really, "Everything Can Wait."
"Police agencies and other organizations have told us that people are getting in accidents not just because of texting and driving," Webner noted. "According to AAA, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the 100 deadliest days on the road for teen drivers - and therefore, all of us."