A group of states’ attorneys general have teamed up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Ad Council on a campaign to increase public awareness about the dangers of texting while driving. The campaign targets drivers in the 16-24 years old range, a group associated with a high rate of car accidents, as well as a propensity to text and drive. The goal is not to increase legislation and penalties surrounding distracted driving, but rather to explain to younger drivers the risks they are taking. The Ad Council hopes to reach up to 8 million of these at-risk drivers with the message, “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.”
Increased legislation and public scrutiny has been successful in delivering the message that texting and driving is dangerous. Unfortunately, understanding the danger has not translated into decreasing the behavior, especially among younger drivers. Liberty Mutual and SADD conducted a study which showed that more than half of high school students openly admit texting while driving. That study came close on the heels of a State Farm survey which showed that most parents continue to use their cell phones even while teaching their teens to drive. Both groups appear to be ignoring the danger their actions pose.
Changing a law is easy compared to changing people’s attitudes. The Ad Council points to past successes in changing our culture’s attitude towards drunk driving, smoking and seat belt use. Similar public campaigns were able to change how these behaviors are viewed by the majority of Americans. The President and CEO of the Ad Council referred to texting while driving as a compulsion. It is difficult to argue with that characterization when so many accidents are attributed to distracted driving.
Cell phone use is nearly universal in younger people. While they have become a vital part of our culture, their use should be monitored by law enforcement officials and by parents. Even without cell phones, drivers between 16 and 24 pose a risk to themselves and other drivers due to their inexperience and uncertain decision-making ability. The added distraction of a cell phone can have serious, even fatal consequences. Hopefully this ad campaign will help change the minds of people everywhere about the dangerous decision to text while driving.
Source: USA Today, “New campaign targets texting while driving,” Larry Copeland, 29 October 2011