Sunday, July 10, 2016

AT&T: Preventing Distracted Driving

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Since its creation in 2010, the It Can Wait campaign from AT&T has spread the word about the dangers of texting and driving through, among others, a viral hashtag, creative PSAs, a virtual reality simulation tour, and a free mobile app. As one of the country's top mobile providers, AT&T is acutely aware of its responsibility to prevent distracted driving; 7 in 10 people admit to using their cellphone behind the wheel. Despite the commonality of this behavior, it is much riskier than many seem to think. A study sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that mere glances away from the road lasting more than 2 seconds increase the risk of a crash to over 2 times that of normal driving. Whether distracted drivers take their hands off of the wheel, their eyes off of the road, or their mind off of the act of driving, they are endangering both themselves and those around them. There is no question that cell phones contribute to this phenomenon, and AT&T addressed this and demonstrated its commitment to social responsibility with It Can Wait.

One of the most impactful aspects of the campaign has been the introduction of the hashtag #X. #X serves to pause a conversation, whether through texting or via social media, by succinctly informing the recipient that the sender is about to get behind the wheel. AT&T enlisted celebrities ranging from Russell Simmons to Shaun White to promote the hashtag on social media, ensuring that the message was spread to thousands of drivers across the world. AT&T also created a series of YouTube PSAs to promote the use of #X. Aimed at teenagers and young adults, the videos featured popular musicians including Demi Lovato and Tegan & Sara sharing their experiences and reasons for choosing to text #X before driving.

In 2015, AT&T further brought attention to the cause by utilizing a long-standing fad in the world of technology: virtual reality. After creating a lifelike video simulation of an all-too common situation involving texting and driving, it launched a 100-city tour to allow Americans to safely experience the consequences of distraction behind the wheel.

This year, the brand developed a free app called AT&T DriveMode to help curb the urge to text and drive. DriveMode turns on automatically when traveling 15 miles per hour, silences incoming text messages, and even has the option to send an auto-reply to let friends and family know why you can't respond.

Throughout the 6 years since its inception, the campaign has had an remarkable impact. Millions of people have downloaded the DriveMode app, and over 9 million have pledged to "keep their eyes on the road, not their phone." Follow-up surveys from AT&T proved that a significant amount of these pledges were more than empty promises; one third say they have already changed their habits. Further research indicates that It Can Wait directly saved lives, as the campaign itself correlated with a reduction of over 7% of crashes in the state of Texas and over 9% in the state of Kentucky. AT&T has arguably changed countless lives by investing years of effort and resources into communicating the dangers of distracted driving, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to tackle the issue in the future.

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