Distracted Driving: Not Worth the Risk

Karina Ramirez from Public Works views a virtual reality program to deter distracted driving.

County employees took a distracted driving challenge at an interactive virtual reality simulator and pledged to stay focused on the road, not mobile phones, social media or other distractions.

The County partnered with AT&T to offer the It Can Wait virtual reality 360-degree driving experience at the County Operations Center Plaza last week. The simulation involved watching a driving video through virtual reality goggles while sitting in a driver’s seat with a steering wheel.

While participating, cartographic services employee Robert Feuerstein actually shrieked a few times and asked if he’d killed someone. Don’t worry he didn’t but he said the video was “so realistic” with the virtual reality goggles.  Formerly a driving instructor, Feuerstein said he knows how important this safety message is for all drivers.  

“It’s a fantastic tool to use to learn the risks of distracted driving,” said Feuerstein.

Ignacio De La Torre, assistant vice president of AT&T External Affairs, said they got involved with this safety messaging in 2010 after they talked with people who had been seriously injured in accidents due to distracted driving like texting or talking on the phone.

In AT&T’s research, they found that 49 percent of people admitted to texting while driving. Of teenagers surveyed, 97 percent said they thought texting and driving was dangerous, but 43 percent of them said they did it anyway.

In more recent years, De La Torre noted, distracted driving has come to include people recording videos of themselves while driving, taking selfies and posting to social media sites.

Karina Ramirez, who works for the Department of Public Works, said she wanted to take part in the experience because her 11-year-old daughter constantly reminds her to put her phone away before they get in the car. Ramirez said she wanted to tell her daughter she pays attention to what she tells her.

“I tell her, ‘You’re right.’ And when she starts driving, I want her not to even think about (using her phone or being distracted in another way),” Ramirez said.

Henry Weaver of Auditor & Controller took the pledge not to drive while distracted.Henry Weaver with Auditor and Controller said the virtual reality goggles made a big impact, and he would warn others to drive responsibly.

“Just don’t do it, it’s not worth it,” said Weaver.

To learn more about the dangers of distracted driving visit AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign and watch 360-degree videos, which can be viewed on any virtual reality viewer.

Last year, more than 20 million people who participated in the AT&T simulated experience pledged not to drive while distracted.

“We provide phones and want to make sure our customers use them in a responsible manner,” said De La Torre.