Brand-backed campaigns against texting while driving are starting to resemble the endless campaign against obesity: Most Americans know what's best for their health and safety, but they can't seem to help doing what they shouldn't be doing. It amounts to two huge strikes against the national willpower, and a race of sorts to see which — distracted driving or eating junk food — regulators will be quicker to clamp down on more thoroughly.
In a new AT&T survey, for instance, 97 percent of teens knew texting while driving is dangerous, but 43 percent of them admitted to sending a text while driving — and 75 percent say the practice is common among their friends. Among the reasons, AT&T (which won a Cannes Lion award for its "Last Text" campaign) found, is that teens feel pressure to respond quickly to text messages. Also, adults are doing the same thing and they mimic their behavior. Partly as a result, according to data provided by Ford, the under-20 age group also has the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes.
So young distracted drivers are facing more and more pressures to give their thumbs a rest while driving. AT&T and Ford are among the relevant brands that have launched promotions just in time for the peak summer driving season.
As part of its Driving Skills for Life campaign, Ford sponsored the game show The Price Is Right on Memorial Day, which featured teens of driving age and their parents as contestants. The winner got a bonus prize of a Ford Driving Skills for Life event coming to their high school, including behind-the-wheel training, safety presentations with professoinal drivers, and a special school concert performed by singer/songriter Kate Voegele of One Tree Hill fame.
Meanwhile, AT&T has been hopskotching Massachusetts in the first phase of its "It Can Wait" presentation on distracted driving, which ends with a plea to teens to sign pledges not to text and drive.
Of course, a meaningful reduction in the problem will probably require more significant voluntary commitments by drivers, their parents, school authorities, celebrities and others — or draconian measures by governments, insurers and others. In the meantime, automakers, mobile-phone providers and others can make their systems safer, and jawbone all they want — and they will.
As long as there's more and more to do in a vehicle for infotainment, the more distraction there will be, regardless of how transactions are done and information and entertainment are communicated.
Hyundai's new Blue Link App, for example, offers a way to reduce driver distraction. As a reader commented on our story on brands' responsibility to educate consumers about the dangers of texting and distracted driving,
One new feature of this App is "POI Search and Send to Car". Instead of entering a destination in the vehicle navigation system after the customer is in the car, they can instead look it up on their smart phone through the app and then send it to the car. When they get to the car they only have to hit one button to view the download and another to set it as the destination. Saves time ...and reduces driver distraction.