PHOTO: Mayor Ken Moore, left, and a Columbia State student view a virtual reality situation involving distracted driving on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. / Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
On Thursday morning, a class of students in film crew gathered inside a room at Columbia State Community College to see a virtual reality version of what happens when people text and drive.
“It Can Wait” is an AT&T campaign to inform people about the dangers of driving while distracted by smartphones.
Dennis Wagner, AT&T’s director of external affairs, said the exhibit rotates throughout high schools and colleges, among other venues.
“If you take your eyes off the road for five seconds and you’re going 55 miles per hour, you’ve traveled the length of a football field,” Wagner said.
In 2017, Williamson County saw 1,134 accidents due to distracted driving, up from 494 in 2008. Through the second quarter of this year, there have been 632 accidents.
Since 2010, 30 million people have signed AT&T’s pledge not to drive distracted.
At the event, students put bright blue rubber bands with “It Can Wait” around their thumbs as a reminder.
Keegan Hankes was one of the students in a film crew class that came down to check out the 3-D goggles portraying scenes of collisions and dangers of distracted driving.
“It’s scary,” Hankes said of the simulation. “There have been tempting times when I’ve thought, ‘Should I look at my phone, should I not?’ No, don’t!” he said.
Hankes drives from Hermitage to the Williamson campus each day for classes, and noted the added danger of rush hour traffic and Nashville drivers.
“Powerful, very powerful,” said Mayor Ken Moore, after watching the simulation.
Rep. Sam Whitson said he wanted to support the initiative because of all the accidents and deaths distracted driving causes.
Whitson’s 12-year-old grandson just got his first cell phone. “Part of his training, I like to say, is to make sure that when he starts driving, that [the phone] is not the most important thing in his life.”