Putting an End to Texting and Driving

AT&T Pumps Up Message for National Youth Traffic Safety Month

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Gail Torreano
Gail Torreano
Last year, 457 billion text messages crossed the AT&T network, compared to approximately 243 billion in 2008 and 88 billion in 2007. While texting is a popular means of communication, reading or responding to text messages while driving can have serious consequences.

Consider the last text you received. Would reading or responding to that message while driving be worth dying over? Chances are it could wait.

In late 2009, AT&T Chairman-CEO Randall Stephenson announced a multifaceted commitment to educate our customers, our employees and the general public about using wireless devices safely while driving.

Since then, we have revised our wireless and motor vehicle policies to more clearly and explicitly prohibit texting and driving; we've incorporated a don't-text-and-drive message on the plastic clings that protect handset screens on the majority of new devices sold in AT&T's more than 2,200 stores; and we've started integrating campaign messaging in AT&T catalogs, in-store signage and collateral, bills, e-mails and newsletters. These efforts have reached approximately 280,000 employees and millions of customers.

In early 2010, we built on this commitment by kicking off a new public awareness campaign across traditional and digital media. This included the debut of a new ad campaign that features real text messages sent or received before someone's life was altered, or even ended, because of texting and driving. For example, in one of the TV spots, the text "Where u at?" flashes on the screen and a mother says, "This is the text my daughter was reading when she drove into oncoming traffic."

By featuring real people, we hope the ads will remind all wireless consumers, but especially youth, that text messages can—and should—wait. In addition, we hope these spots demonstrate just how insignificant a text message is compared to the potentially dire consequences of reading or responding while driving.

The ads can be accessed via our new online resource center—www.att.com/txtngcanwait—which features a variety of downloadable tips and tools on texting and driving safety for parents, teens and educators, including a parent-teen pledge, a teen-teen pledge, a poster, brochure and a variety of wireless safety tips.

While our campaign is important for all drivers, we're particularly focused on youth. That's why, in addition to an online resource center, we introduced a Facebook application encouraging friends to take the pledge not to text and drive and promoted it heavily via AT&T's Twitter channel, @ShareATT. It's also the reason we recently worked with The CW to incorporate a reference to the campaign in the March 30 episode of "Melrose Place." As part of the effort, The CW developed a public service announcement featuring "Melrose Place" stars Katie Cassidy and Michael Rady, which aired immediately following the show, to encourage viewers to sign AT&T's Facebook pledge.

As we continue to promote this program throughout the month of May, which is the National Organizations for Youth Safety's National Youth Traffic Safety Month, we expect the number of Facebook pledges will continue to climb. To honor those who have taken the pledge—more than 12,000 to date—AT&T will contribute $250,000 to one or more nonprofit organizations focused on youth safety, which we will announce in the near future.

With the school year coming to a close and new, young drivers hitting the roads for summer jobs and fun with friends, this is an extremely important time of year to raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving. If you have been touched by the spokespersons featured in our ad campaign, help us raise awareness by spreading the word to your family, friends and colleagues. Consider:

  • Joining the more than 12,000 who have already taken the AT&T It Can Wait Facebook pledge by visiting the Texting & Driving tab on the AT&T Facebook page.
  • Informing your Facebook friends that you've taken the pledge by posting an update—"I've taken the pledge to not text and drive"—and encouraging them to do the same.
  • If you have a Twitter account, letting your followers know you took the pledge and reminding them to do so as well by directing them to www.facebook.com/att.

Ultimately, our goal is to generate a change in thinking and behavior of all wireless users and to reach millions with a simple but effective message: When it comes to texting and driving, it can wait.

We hope you'll help us spread the word.

Gail Torreano is senior VP-employee communications & corporate sponsorships, AT&T.