AT&T director talks dangers of texting, driving

Published 12:03 am Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quickly, think of the last text message or email you received.

Now, consider if that message was worth dying for.

With that opening, Gigi Armbrecht, regional director for AT&T Alabama, captured the attention of Andalusia Rotarians on Tuesday with a program about the dangers of texting and driving and Alabama’s new texting law, which goes into effect this fall.

There were 854 billion text messages sent in 2011, or an average of 87 thoussand every five seconds, Armbrecht said.

People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

“The average text takes five seconds to read or send,” she said. “That’s like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.”

Startlingly, AT&T research conducted in 2009 showed that the reaction time of a drinking driver was 12 percent greater. The reaction time of a person using drugs increased by 21 percent, and reaction by a person who was texting increased 35 percent.

“You are safer in the car with someone doing drugs than someone texting,” she said.

The numbers are particularly haunting for parents of teens, as texting is the No. 1 way teens socialize.

“And the peer pressure is great,” Armbrecht said. “Teens expect texts to be answered in five minutes. It takes courage for a teenager to ignore a text while driving.”

To combat the dangers, AT&T has used its research to produce public service announcements, and videos targeting teen drivers, and encourages parents and teens to publicly sign pledges saying they won’t text and drive. All of the educational materials are downloadable from the company’s web site,

AT&T and other service providers also offer free applications that, if activated, will answer texts or emails with a message that says the user is driving and will answer as soon as possible.

AT&T’s app is called DriveMode and is for Blackberry and Android. An app available for iphones through iTunes TextSmart-DriveSafe offers similar functions.