Texting while driving has been illegal in Tennessee and many other states for more than a year now but young people are apparently not getting the message according to national studies. For this reason, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper and Attorneys General across the country are teaming up the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Ad Council in a national campaign to remind teens of the law and the dangers of texting while driving.
The agencies are launching a national public service advertising campaign today to reach out to young drivers through TV, radio, outdoor and digital PSAs, and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/stopthetexts), Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/stopthetexts) and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/stopthetexts) social media channels.
NHTSA reports that distracted driving is the number one killer of American teens. Sixteen percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) reports that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver. Additionally, 82 percent of young adult drivers (16-24) have admitted to reading a standard text message while driving, according to a national survey conducted by the Ad Council.
"Imagine closing your eyes while driving for the amount of time it takes to read a text message," Attorney General Bob Cooper said. "Reading a text message is no less dangerous than any other diversion that takes your eyes off the road, and it can carry deadly consequences."
"Every second matters when you're behind the wheel," said Attorney General Rob McKenna, 2012 President of the National Association of Attorneys General. "The nation's attorneys general join the Ad Council, consumer protection agencies and NHTSA in reminding young drivers to stop texts and stop wrecks. No text, Tweet or Facebook update is worth your life."
The new television, radio, outdoor and digital PSAs were created pro bono by New York advertising agency The Concept Farm. The PSAs communicate to teens and adults that when you text and drive, you are not multitasking, but essentially driving blind. All of the PSAs direct audiences to www.stoptextsstopwrecks.org, a new campaign website where teens and young adults can find facts about the impact of texting while driving and tips for how to curb the behavior. The website also has an area where individuals can post, and share on Facebook, what they are doing to stop texting and driving.
"For over 25 years we have been working with NHTSA to successfully address drunk driving prevention. The term 'designated driver' is now a part of the American vocabulary, but even more importantly 67 percent of all adults have tried to stop someone from drinking and driving," said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. "Research has shown that using a cell phone delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. Through our Texting and Driving Prevention campaign we are working towards eradicating the mindset among young adults that texting and driving is a safe activity."
The Ad Council's national survey released today also found that 75 percent of young adult drivers have sent a standard text message while driving; and 49 percent have done it multiple times. Half of respondents say that during the past month, they have been a passenger when a friend was texting while driving.
"Distracted driving is dangerous, and tragically, teen drivers are the most at risk of being involved in a fatal distracted driving crash," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We hope our new ad campaign will send a strong message to teens that putting away cell phones and other distractions while you're driving is not just commonsense safe behavior, it can save your life."
"The Concept Farm is honored to work with the Ad Council and its sponsors on the anti-texting and driving initiative," says Ray Mendez, Partner and Integration Director at The Concept Farm. "The dangers and consequences of texting and driving are very real and addressing them aggressively is long overdue. Texting and driving has become an epidemic in this country, and we're passionate about doing our part to change behavior. Saving lives . . . that's our goal."
A social media program kicking off this week will help drive the point home on social networking sites and blogs nationwide. Non-profit partners such as NOYS (National Organizations for Youth Safety) and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) will help spread the message by reaching out to their members across the country.
Since 2006, the Ad Council has partnered with the State Attorneys General to address reckless driving among teens. To date the campaign has received more than $88.7 million in donated media support. For more than 25 years, the Ad Council and NHTSA have worked together on consumer safety PSA campaigns. Per the Ad Council's model, all of the new PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.
For more information about the campaign visit www.nhtsa.gov and www.adcouncil.org.