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A 2009 study revealed that teen drivers are eight times more likely to crash if they text while driving (twice the risk of simply talking on the phone while driving). To build awarenesss about the danger, AT&T is launching a new campaign called "It Can Wait," that will appear on-air, online, on the radio, and in print.
The message can't come too soon. In a 2007 survey, 46% of teens admitted to sending and receiving text messages while driving -- and that was over two years ago.
The AT&T campaign asks wired teens if their most recent texts are worth risking their lives over. (Teens might respond: "Well... who's it from?") The obligatory website includes a quiz about texting-and-driving awareness that I honestly did poorly on. Then again, I also flunked my driving test two times.
The endeavor is supported by the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry (CTIA), whose own public service program, "On the Road, Off The Phone," includes a compelling public service video. A much more gruesome cautionary video was created for schools last year by the police force of Gwent, a tiny county in southeast Wales. A surprise hit on YouTube, The video -- which makes Inglourious Basterds look like My Little Pony, is persuasive, but a bit too traumatic in and of itself.
With due respect to AT&T, the CTIA, and other laudable efforts, teens won't really change their ways unless there's some peer pressure involved, even if that peer is television. So consider this an open letter to Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, ABC and anyone else who creates compelling content for kids: It's time to dust off the old ABC After School Special playbook and create storylines that illustrate the dangers of texting and driving without resorting to gore. Where's Robby Benson and Kristy McNichol when you need them?
I'm talking to you, Miley, Miranda, Selena, and Team Jonas. Fans follow your every tweet -- now who's going to text up to the plate?