Rival cellphone companies will unite against distracted driving

Major cellphone companies fought state laws to restrict cellphone use and texting in motor vehicles. As awareness of car accidents caused by texting or other distractions related to cellphones grew, the companies began encouraging people not to use their phones in the car. Now, in an unusual move, the four largest cellphone companies will launch a joint advertising campaign against distracted driving.

Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile will join about 200 other organizations to back AT&T’s “It Can Wait” slogan this summer. AT&T’s CEO says that leaders in his industry know that distracted driving is an issue they need to tackle. Pooling resources to have one consistent message can be more powerful than companies going in different directions. The multi-million dollar campaign will include TV and radio ads, the use of social media, store displays, community events and a national tour with a driving simulator.

The move comes as the government and others are increasing warnings about texting while driving, citing studies that show increased likelihood of deaths. Many states have enacted some type of ban on cellphone use in vehicles. New York prohibits texting while driving and also prohibits talking on handheld mobile devices behind the wheel. Hands-free devices are allowed.

As state laws tighten, cellphone companies launch campaigns and government officials recommend stronger bans, some are questioning whether safety advocates are focusing too much on cellphones. They point to the fact that accident rates have declined long term and that texting has not had a measurable impact on those rates, although they also say that texting behind the wheel is not a good idea. One expert has said that efforts to improve safety should address more types of distraction than just cellphones.

Source: The Associated Press, “Big 4 cellphone carriers unite on anti-texting ads,” May 22, 2013