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NHTSA, Ad Council, and States Target Texting While Driving

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Stop the texts. Stop the wrecks.

Would anyone get into a car and drive if they were required to wear a blindfold? A series of public service announcements (PSAs) takes this approach in an effort to prevent young adults from texting while driving. The ad campaign, called “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks,” was created at no cost by New York advertising agony The Concept Farm, in partnership with the Ad Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the State Attorneys General and Consumer Protection Agencies, and includes TV, radio, outdoor and digital PSAs.

The campaign also has Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube social media channels. The PSAs communicate to teens and adults that when you text and drive, you are not multitasking, but essentially driving blind. By taking your eyes off the road, even for a few seconds, you are making the road less safe for you, your passengers, and other drivers.

All of the PSAs direct audiences to 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.

The facts about texting while driving are alarming. It is the number-one killer of American teens, according to NHTSA. Sixteen percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal accidents were texting while driving. A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver, says the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The Ad Council’s national survey found that 82% of young adult drivers (16-24) have read a standard text message while driving, 75% of young adult drivers have sent a standard text message while driving, and 49% have done so multiple times. Half of respondents say that during the past month, they have been a passenger when a friend was texting while driving.

“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,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “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.”

Larry Copeland quotes Peggy Conlon in USA TODAY: “People in our culture, especially young people, have never known an era that didn’t include cellphones and texting,” she says. “One thing we are addressing is the compulsion (to text while driving).”

Keith Laing reports the following for The Hill:

‘Every second matters when you’re behind the wheel,’ Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna, the president of the National Association of Attorneys General, said in a statement. ‘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.’

There is no shortage of online comments supporting the effort to prevent distracted driving. On The Hill, someone named “Brian” posted the comment: “The problem is that this country hands out licenses like Halloween Candy. How about a PSA to teach people what they should have learned BEFORE they were handed a license?”

And, on USA TODAY, someone named “ronsun” posted the following comment: “I would like for them to go after all impaired and distracted drivers. Drunks, drugged, tired, texters, callers, shavers, eaters, laptoppers, readers… none of it belongs behind the wheel. If you are not there to drive and only drive, you should not be there at all.”

As if there were not enough things to distract drivers, one commenter on USA TODAY named “life support” found himself becoming distracted simply by noticing a distracted driver. He wrote:  “I saw an attractive young lady eating a banana while driving. I almost got rear ended by the guy behind me.”

Here’s one of the PSA videos (and you can see more of them here):

Image by StopTextsStopWrecks.org, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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