By Barbara Ortutay
SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly everyone agrees that texting and driving is dangerous. Many people do it anyway.
In an AT&T-sponsored survey of frequent drivers who text daily — regardless of where they are — 98 percent said they were aware of the dangers of texting behind the wheel. Nonetheless, three-quarters of them admitted to texting while driving, despite broad public-service campaigns and laws against it in some states.
Two-thirds said they have read text messages while stopped at a red light or stop sign, while more than a quarter said they have sent texts while driving. More than a quarter of those who texted while driving believed they “can easily do several things at once, even while driving.”
AT&T Inc. released the survey Wednesday as part of an anti-texting-and-driving campaign. AT&T designed the survey with David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and a professor at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine.
The survey came as AT&T expanded availability of a free app that silences text message alerts and activates automatically when a person is moving 15 miles per hour or faster. The DriveMode app is coming to iPhones after being previously available on Android and BlackBerry phones for AT&T users only.
The study in May was of cellphone owners ages 16 to 65 who drive almost every day and text at least once a day. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Greenfield said the survey is the latest to show a discrepancy between people’s attitudes and behaviors.
It found a broad range of reasons why drivers text. Forty-three percent of the texting drivers said they want to “stay connected” to friends, family and work. Nearly a third did it out of habit.
Reggie Shaw was 19 in 2006 when he caused a car accident while texting, killing two people. Today, he speaks out against texting and driving.
“It’s something I struggle with every day,” he said. “I know that I need to go out and talk to others about it. I don’t want others to make the same mistake I did.”
Shaw does not remember what he was texting about right before the accident. Back then, he said, “being on my phone when I drove was something I did all the time. It was just driving to me. I guess you’d call it ignorance but I never understood that it was dangerous. How could me being on the phone cause a car accident?”
Today, his phone is off when he’s driving. Never in the past eight years since the accident, he says, has he gotten a phone call or text message that was so important that it couldn’t wait until he stopped the car.