Virtual Reality Experience Illustrates Dangers of Texting and Driving

Friday, January 13, 2017

UNCW’s Department of Housing and Residence Life is partnering with AT&T to bring the company’s “It Can Wait” campaign to campus Jan. 17 and 18. The initiative stresses the dangers of using smartphones while driving.

Making or answering text messages while driving is illegal for people of all ages in North Carolina, yet the lure of constant communication can easily distract drivers’ attention from the road. AT&T’s campaign is an attempt to demonstrate, in lifelike simulation, just how dangerous that is.

“This demonstration is designed to help students visualize the dangers of texting while driving, among other distractions,” said HRL Director Peter Groenendyk. “UNCW is committed to engagement with the community and strives to create a student-centered campus as outlined in the strategic plan.”

AT&T will provide virtual reality equipment that enables participants to simulate a wreck caused by distracted driving, in this case texting while behind the wheel. They will then have the opportunity to be part of a national pledge not to use smartphones while driving. Students, faculty and staff are invited to participate.

A demonstration open to the entire campus community will take place at Sharky’s Game Room in the Fisher Student Center on Jan. 18 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Six evening sessions are scheduled Jan. 17 and 18 for students living in campus housing. The Department of Campus Life helped organize the daytime event.

AT&T brought the experience to UNCW last year with the help of Clifton Metcalf Jr., director of public affairs for the company’s North Carolina and South Carolina division. His son Carter Metcalf is a resident assistant in the Graham-Hewlett residence halls.

“It Can Wait” is an initiative AT&T launched six years ago to draw attention to the dangers of smartphone use, with an emphasis on texting and driving. The virtual reality experience offers a sobering look at the consequences of distracted driving, Metcalf said.

So far, the campaign has 16 million pledges; its goal is 20 million.

“There is nothing so important that it can’t wait,” Metcalf said.

-- Tricia Vance