AT&T Sends Message To Teens: Hang Up And Drive

Kids may not always listen, but AT&T's latest marketing promotion tells teenagers and young adults to hang up the cell phone and drive. Sending a message, the nation's No. 1 carrier Friday rolled out a marketing campaign to promote its sponsorship in stock car racing's elite circuit with Fox Sports Nascar and Safe Driving public service initiative.

Fox Sports broadcaster Chris Myers and champion crew chief Jeff Hammond hosted the "AT&T Race Break" broadcast segments live from Fox Sports' mobile trackside studio. During breaks in racing action, segments gave viewers the latest in racing news and exclusive insight from Nascar. AT&T also promoted racing-related streaming video content available to its wireless subscribers.

AT&T will customize 200 service vans to look and feel like the No. 31 AT&T Chevrolet. Driver Jeff Burton was on hand when the first wrapped vehicle rolled out at the Daytona Speedway AT&T retail store in Florida. Burton and AT&T North Florida Vice President and General Manager Rudy Hermond signed the Safe Driving pledge at the unveiling.

The Safe Driving pledge Burton signed suggests people should avoid stressful or emotional conversations while driving, keep their hands on the wheel, and keep both eyes on the road. Drivers should also refrain from changing the CD or radio station, placing a mobile phone call, sending text messages to a friend, taking pictures, and recording or watching video.

Talking and typing text messages when driving led many states to ban cellular phones, while other states require the use of a hands-free device. There are plenty of Bluetooth accessories available that hook into phones from Research in Motion, Motorola and Nokia, among others, that allow commuters to keep their hands on the wheel.

Studies, however, have shown the problem is deeper than keeping drivers from reaching for their phones. Evidence now shows that hands-free talking isn't less of a distraction. In fact, drivers who talk on the cell phone in any way are four times more likely to become involved in an accident, according to David Strayer, psychology professor and research team director at the Applied Cognition Lab at the University of Utah.

"A fourfold increase in accident risk is like driving with a .08 blood alcohol level," Strayer says. "That means the odds of being in an accident when talking on a cellular phone while driving are statistically the same as being drunk at a .08 level."

Strayer says drivers are eight times more likely to get into an accident when text-messaging. About half of teens admit they text-message when driving, a topic that AT&T's marketing campaign focuses on.

Burton, on behalf of AT&T, also plans to make several personal appearances in key markets throughout the season. The message for high school students emphasizes the importance of safe driving and how to safely use wireless products while on the road.

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