On February 19, Brothers Jim Penna (IUP ’86) and Doug Steeber (Pittsburgh ’16) worked together to bring the AT&T “It Can Wait” simulator to the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) campus. “It Can Wait” is AT&T’s national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving. There are two AT&T simulators in the country. Because the East Coast simulator was making a tour that included parts of Pennsylvania, Jim, AT&T’s Regional Director of External Affairs, contacted Upsilon South Province President Jordan Pallitto (Allegheny ‘06) to see if the brothers of Pennsylvania Iota would join him in bringing the simulator to the Pitt campus and promote the event. Jordan then contacted Doug and asked him to bring this idea to the chapter. In a fortunate turn of events, the Pennsylvania Iota chapter was already searching for a community service event to take part in on campus. The “It Can Wait” simulator was the perfect opportunity.
Brothers and Phikeias posted flyers throughout the campus during the days before the event. On the day of the event, the “It Can Wait” simulator was set up in Posvar Hall, one of the main academic buildings at Pitt. The many students, faculty, and families who walked by were encouraged to use this virtual reality technology to experience first hand the risks of texting while driving. Participants sat in a small vehicle mock-up and simulator goggles and headphones were placed on their head. Participants then found themselves inside a car starting a trip through a busy neighborhood. During the trip, a virtual cell phone would chime and the participants would read and reply to text messages within the simulation. This demonstrated, very realistically, how oblivious one can become to hazards in the road while using one’s phone.
Thirty members of Pennsylvania Iota took shifts during the four hours that the simulator was open to the public, approaching those who passed by to speak to them about the simulator and the dangers of texting while driving. In addition to the simulator, participants and onlookers were encouraged to go online to www.itcanwait.com to take the pledge to never text and drive again. Although texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, seven out of 10 drivers admit to doing so. Phi Delts were able to spread the message that any text, email, post, or search can wait until one is done driving. During the event, several people shared their own stories of being put in danger while texting and driving. Some had family or friends or were personally injured by a driver who was texting. Others admitted that they were involved in an accident because they were texting at the time. Many of those who took part in the event said that it had been a moving experience.
Raising awareness of the dangers of texting while driving is an important cause. The coordination between brothers of different generations and schools, some alumni and some undergraduates, who had never met before, made this event possible. It is a perfect example of what it means to be a Phi Delt and what can be accomplished when Phi Delts work together.
In photo (left to right): Ryan McEnery, John Luderitz, Josh Trach, Ryan Lincoln, Jim Penna, Austin Peterson, Liam Casey, Doug Steeber, Connor Walsh