Whatever it is, it can wait. That was the message law enforcement and others stressed Wednesday about texting and driving.
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson recalled meeting a woman at a law enforcement conference whose daughter died in a car accident shortly after learning to drive.
The daughter was texting when the accident happened.
“There’s no reason for that,” Edmonson said. “The simple message of ‘it can wait’ goes so much further than the fact that you’re not going to use your car for a short period of time.”
He said no message is so important that it cannot wait until the person reaches his or her destination or pulls over into a parking lot.
“This is about changing a culture,” Edmonson said during a news conference outside State Police headquarters in advance of “Drive 4 Pledges Day” on Thursday.
As part of the national awareness day, people across the country are asked to take the pledge online at itcanwait.com that they will never text and drive.
Edmonson said distracted driving has become a major cause of traffic accidents and troopers have no problem writing tickets for texting while driving.
In 2005, State Police added texting while driving as something they check for when investigating accidents. Distracted driving was added to the checklist in 1999.
Edmonson said troopers have issued more than 100 tickets since Labor Day for texting while driving.
Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta; Michael Ranatza, executive director of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association; Fabian Blache, executive director of the Louisiana Chiefs Association; and Sonia Davis, president of AT&T Louisiana, joined Edmonson in urging people to sign the online pledge.
“It’s so important to remember how this can affect every citizen in the state,” Skrmetta said. “It’s time to take the pledge.”
“What’s been found through statistical information is that if people are asked not to text and drive and to take the pledge, there is a huge drop in the number of people who will” text and drive, Skrmetta added.
According to a ConnectSafely.org survey commissioned by AT&T, 78 percent of teen drivers surveyed said they do not text and drive if friends tell them that it is wrong or stupid and 93 percent of teen drivers said they would stop if a parent asked them to stop.
“We want our customers to know that we want them to stay our customers and the best way to do that is when it comes to texting and driving, it can wait,” Davis said. “No message is so important that we need it now.”
State Police spokesman Capt. Doug Cain said Louisiana has a law banning texting while driving and a new law went into effect this year that bans people from being on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instragram while driving.
Cain said more than 2.5 million people across the country have already taken the pledge.
Thursday’s campaign is about increasing that number.
“Far too often, my officers see firsthand the devastating results of texting and driving,” Edmonson said. “Changing behavior is hard to do, but we can if we work together to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving and make it socially unacceptable to do so.”