Anti-texting: Does focusing on teen drivers miss the point?

The USDOT blog features some anti-texting PSAs from AT&T. I followed some links that led me to this program by CTIA (the association of wireless companies):

I realize that teens are a huge risk group with texting. They’ve always been a huge risk group with simply driving because they have notoriously poor judgment. As goes a favorite saying of pilots: good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment. (If you survive it.)

When I look around, I’m seeing a heck of a lot of adults texting behind the wheel. The texting driver I mentioned in my post about removing trashcans from the Lakemont bike lane was a middle aged woman. Her car drifted into the bike lane just 10 feet from a trash can, and I was standing right behind that trash can. She was looking down at her phone with fingers on the keypad as she drove by, I don’t think she ever knew I was there.

Are any of these companies targeting adults? Do adults see these messages and think texting is only a teen problem — a combination of inexperience and poor driving skills — something they’re immune to?

BTW, what do you think of the AT&T PSAs?

15 replies
  1. SMS Replier
    SMS Replier says:

    check out the new anti-texting while driving app, SMS Replier! a responsible driver can set the app to automatically respond a friendly message notifying your friends you are driving and you will be right with them. It also allows you to put up messages when you are busy doing other things! Check us out on twitter!!

  2. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    @ SMS – Most cellular providers have a really cool application called voicemail already included. Users simply have to record their own friendly message.

    Do you have an app that will help me de-clutter and de-stress the mess I have made? I’d be interested in that!

  3. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    It probably wouldn’t be too hard to change the text and the music on that PSA to make it for parents and other older adults.

  4. Eric
    Eric says:

    Teens are an easy target because they can’t vote or complain. If they do complain, we “adults” say, “Well they are teens, of course they will complain!”

    I see many teens text without taking their eyes off of what ever needs attention. I don’t know how they type with their thumbs, but I have seen it done.

    They also don’t make enough money to pay the iphone bill every month, so who is paying it?

    The ads play to the folks that pay the bills.

    The real problem is that whether you are talking or typing with your thumbs and not taking your eyes off the road, your brain is divided. Contrary to what we have been told, brains can’t multitask.

    People always think they can drive better than they really can.

    New topic:
    PSA’s are dead. Years ago, radio and TV stations had to run them, but not since the late ’80’s. “Deregulation” and all.

    I would be a lot more impressed if the cell phone companies ran ads like these during prime time and paid prime time advertising rates to do it.

    • Rodney
      Rodney says:

      Eric, good point about being divided. I had to resort to the sidewalk for the last two miles home the other day. I could not keep the bike in the travel lane or average speed.

      Since knowing the intricacies of sidewalk riding, I observed a teenager walking and texting. Pure research dictated I come to a complete stop and observe.

      Sure enough, he kept his head down and when he was about 1 foot away, I dinged my bell once. He apologized. Good for a laugh, but very enlightening to me. I hope he walked away with the same.

  5. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    No Eric, PSAs aren’t dead; they’ve just moved to the web. The difference is view counts depend on whether it’s an engaging piece or not, which get people to share it with one another, not how much money the advertiser has to run it.

  6. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    One of the root causes of many crashes is the absurdly low age to start driving in Florida. I see that there is a movement to raise it to 18 years of age. I heartily support this change.

    But why not go all the way? Using the carrot of federal road dollars, how about a USA wide federal minimum driving age of 18 years. And minimum standards for driver training and testing.

    There is a good reason why The Netherlands and many other countries do not accept US driver’s licenses.

  7. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    @ Kevin. Florida’s driving age is pretty much the norm: 15 for a permit, 16 for a regular license. Eight states allow permits at 14. Nine allow permits at age 16.

    I don’t know of a movement to raise the age to 18. And I doubt it will go very far.

    Personally, I don’t need the state to legislate my children’s driving age/education/habits. That’s my job.

    My son got his permit at 16.5 — because I determined he wasn’t mature enough for a license. Florida law mandates that he drive with a licensed adult for 1 year. So, he’ll be 17.5 years of age before he can drive alone.

    Furthermore, I’m requiring him to take a driver’s ed class through the high school (he complains about it, but too bad!) AND a cycling ed program.

    Finally, if I had a choice, I wouldn’t let most foreigners drive in this state. Come to my office near the Orlando International Airport to witness the craziness first hand. At least twice a day we see people drive on the left side of the road — I’m not kidding. We watch from our windows and say, “there goes another one!” It’s so prevalent that an Orlando Police Officer has permanent detail in front of my office!

    Of course, Florida — or any state for that matter — isn’t going to prohibit foreign drivers. The outcry from rental car companies and state and local economists (gas tax revenue), among others, would be deafening.

  8. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    “Thousands of Florida 16-year-olds are killed or injured in car crashes every year, a statistic that has spurred at least one legislator to call for increasing the state’s driving age. “That extra year, the kids need it,” said Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton. “Their brain hasn’t matured. Sometimes I relate this to trying to pour a gallon bottle of milk into a pint and it just overflows — they can’t take in all that information.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    I agree with Mr. Slosberg. However, it will probably take some horrific incident before any change happens. I see that his quote is four years old. Sigh…


  9. Angie
    Angie says:

    First of all, I like the AT&T PSAs–I find them very powerful. Although they are directed more at teens, I don’t think they are so targeted that they can’t reach more people.

    But absolutely, I think the campain should be intentionally broadened. Decreasing our car usage has meant carpooling more with friends and it’s been quite shocking to see that most of my friends text and drive. When I say something, they seem pretty surprised to be called out on it–like they had not thought about it being dangerous.

  10. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    Actually, a horrific accident already happened. Former state representative Irv Slosberg’s 14-year-old daughter — and four others — were killed in the mid-90s. He championed the mandatory seat belt law. Subsequently, he filed driving age bills but they didn’t get out of committee. I sat through some of the testimony before House committees. The stories of teenage driver deaths are sad, but there’s a lot more to driving skills than just age. Legislators saw that, too, which is why the bills went nowhere.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      >there’s a lot more to driving skills than just age. Legislators saw that, too, which is why the bills went nowhere.<

      These legislators wouldn't THINK about bringing back mandatory driver's ed for high school children, though, would they? That's tyranny!

  11. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Have to agree with Eric’s earlier comment about kids being able to text without looking at the device. My 23 year old, heavy-texting son demonstrated it to me.

    The texting software does “word assumption” based on just a few characters typed, and then pops up a list of words that start to match or closely match what you have typed. He’s memorized the words he uses most often, so he can remember that the word “call” is typed as “C, lookup button, down button 2 times” — much harder for me to to explain this than actually do it.

    I was impressed, but still pleaded with him not to text while driving ……

  12. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    Eric, I absolutely agree.

    Sadly, there are plenty of examples where education isn’t funded, valued, respected….

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