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OP-ED: AT&T takes the lead on texting
October 12, 2013, 05:00 AM Star-Ledger, New Jersey, N.J.

The world’s largest telecommunications company has launched a massive public service campaign to tell people not to use its own products — not behind the wheel, anyway.

And somehow, it feels less self-serving than a cigarette company warning about the dangers of smoking, a liquor company telling you not to drink and drive or a Bushmaster manufacturer preaching about gun safety.

After all, this isn’t an inherently dangerous product. This is about a total misuse of phones, a relatively new phenomenon. A decade ago, who envisioned sending a text message at 70 mph on the Garden State Parkway?

Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview a few years ago that someone close to him caused an accident while texting. The smartphone “is a product we sell and it’s being used inappropriately,” he told the New York Times.

And to make that clear, his company has enlisted the aid of its fiercest rivals, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, which together have spent millions on co-branded ads and public events since 2010, to warn against texting while driving.

AT&T even got the legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog to direct a series of short films on the dangers. As a result, the number of people who had sworn off texting and driving has risen from 2.5 million to more than 3 million nationwide.

Many did so after hearing the publicized stories of accident victims who were texting — such as a young woman trapped screaming inside her burning car for 23 minutes, in a harrowing video recorded on a police cruiser’s dash cam.

 

 

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