UTPD hosts texting while driving simulation to spread awareness

Zainab Calcuttawala

In an effort to demonstrate the risks associated with texting while driving, students tested their abilities to multitask behind the wheel in a simulation on campus sponsored by UTPD and Allstate’s Reality Rides initiative. 

The event, held Monday, was part of Reality Rides’ nationwide tour designed to educate university communities on the life-threatening risks of distracted driving, according to Kelly Conway, co-founder of the Fleming and Conway branch for Allstate Insurance.

“The reason we are targeting college campuses is because the number one killer of people between the ages of 11 to 27 is actually auto accidents, and one of the most common things that cause these accidents is using cell phones while driving,” Conway said.

The City of Austin passed a municipal ordinance last year that made using a handheld device while driving a citable offense associated with up to $500 in fines. APD has issued nearly 1,000 citations since the ordinance came into effect on Jan. 1, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

UTPD urges students to refrain from using handheld devices in their cars, UTPD officer William Pieper said.

“[The ordinance] is not something we enforce on campus because it is a city ordinance, and the campus is state property, but we understand how serious of a problem it is, and we encourage students to dedicate themselves to not be texting while driving,” Pieper said.

The widespread and incessant use of technology has made it difficult for police departments to convince people of the risks of texting while driving, Pieper said.

“When using technology becomes such a norm to do, it always becomes a natural thing to use it while driving,” Pieper said. “So getting them to realize that this is something dangerous is challenging. No text is that important. No phone call is that important.”

A lack of education regarding vehicular risks causes many students to take distracted driving lightly, according to mathematics sophomore Joseph Garcia.

“What we students consider one of the most benign objects, [vehicles], are actually the deadliest objects we encounter on a regular basis,” Garcia said. “I feel that if this was part of freshman education, we would be more aware of the risks involved in driving.”

UTPD considers distracted driving to be as deadly as driving while intoxicated, as they can both lead to fatal consequences, Pieper said.

“Whether it’s drunk driving or texting while driving, it only takes a second of inattention to cause something that could lead to some devastating consequences,”
Pieper said.