Perils of Driving and Texting

Senate President Peter Courtney shows why driving and texting on a cell phone is dangerous business. Photo by Anna StaverOne way to make your point is to turn it into a video game. AT&T is using a simulator to show the dangers of driving while texting.

The Salem Statesman Journal staged a competition between Senate President Peter Courtney and political reporter Anna Staver to see who could drive the safest on the simulator while texting. Both crashed. Courtney crashed several times.

The PR stunt served to underline the point that more than 3,300 people were killed and 420,000 injured in the United States in distracted-driving crashes, according to a 2012 report from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Yet texting while driving is on the rise.

A Centers for Disease Control study found that 69 percent of drivers had talked on their cell phone some time within the 30 days preceding the survey, and 31 percent had sent or read a text.

Courtney has pushed for statutory penalties that are comparable to driving under the influence. He admits the time isn't right for that level of punishment, but a few more spins on the simulator may wake up people to the danger of distracted driving.

AT&T, which offers cell phone service, is using the simulator to help drivers teach themselves. One of its stops in Oregon was in the parking lot of Autzen Stadium before a football game.

"I think everyone should take it," Courtney told the Statesman Journal. "It's the only way you realize the magnitude of texting."

Staver says AT&T offers an online version of the simulator at www.itcanwaitsimulator.org.