Consider it a new phrase — and a new danger — of the digital era. "Distracted driving," which is primarily associated with texting or talking on a cell phone while driving, is getting a lot of attention these days.
Texting while driving caused over 16,000 deaths between 2002 and 2007, according to research conducted by the University of North Texas Health Science Center. The percentage of all traffic deaths caused by distracted driving rose from 11% in 1999 to 16% in 2008.
That's why brands such as Allstate are stepping up efforts to address the issue.
Driven to distraction by distracted driving, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held a "Distracted Driving Summit" last September and has launched a website, the appropriately named distraction.gov, addressing the subject.
Despite efforts by some states to enact legislation that bans texting while driving, distracted driving persists. Speaking on behalf of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Anne Fleming commented, "There are various issues, and enforcement is definitely one of them. It's difficult to see if someone is using a phone. It's definitely difficult to see if they're texting. And if drivers don't believe they are going to be caught, compliance isn't high."
That's why companies like LG Electronics, which launched a humorous anti-texting campaign with Glee star Jane Lynch last year; Sprint, which last year introduced a "Thumb Wars" campaign with Joel McHale to tackle texting; and now Allstate Insurance are taking things into their own hands. (Allstate, after all, is the "good hands" company.)
Allstate's isn't using humor but drama to address the issue. While both adult and young drivers are guilty of distracted driving, Allstate is focusing squarely on teen drivers via a new targeted website. The site uses language and imagery that appeals to teens, including the homepage txt-speak headline, "CRS YR HRT + DRV 2 LIV: MAKE YOUR PROMISE don't be a jerkface."
The website also features "The Promise" — a section where a teen can make a video or audio pledge to not text while driving. Allstate promises to send the video to their parents.
In conjunction with the website, Allstate is running a distracted driving television commercial as part of its Mayhem series, in which an actor portrays the mayhem that can occur when something goes wrong; in this case, a crash occurs because of texting. An even more ambitious tie-in, however, is a branded entertainment series running on YouTube called The Lines.
The first episode, above, sets up the story with several teen characters and includes one instance of distracted driving, although it doesn't involve texting. Episodes two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight are also now uploaded to YouTube.)
Allstate has been proactive in this area. In August, the company launched a Facebook campaign, X the TXT, which included nationwide appearances by the Jonas Brothers, encouraging teens to pledge not to text and drive. The campaign recently reached a milestone with the registration of its 100,000th Facebook fan.
Sari Macrie, vice president of corporate relations for Allstate, says, "Our integrated social media and traditional grassroots campaign is making a difference. More than 100,000 X the TXT fans are building an activist community and saving lives."
Allstate says more than 125,000 people have taken the pledge not to text and drive so far. Now, it's hoping it can engage (not distract) teens by highlighting the perils of texting while driving with branded entertainment with The Lines.