Wireless carriers to launch ad blitz against texting while driving

The country’s largest wireless carriers have joined together for a national advertising campaign to discourage mobile users from texting while driving.

AT&T announced that competitors Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile and more than 200 other organizations have joined its “It Can Wait” campaign. The effort will focus on the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which have been called the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.

The campaign kicks off Monday, with the four wireless carriers bringing a multimillion-dollar co-branded advertising blitz to raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving. The companies are encouraging people to take a pledge against the practice at ItCanWait.com.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said texting while driving makes drivers 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. The company said a recent survey showed that 49 percent of business commuters admitted to texting while driving.

“Awareness of the dangers of texting and driving has increased, but people are still doing it,” he said. “With this expanded effort, we hope to change behavior.”

The campaign will focus on the stories of people who are living with the consequences of texting while driving and will be told through TV, radio, social media and digital channels. The messaging will appear in tens of thousands of retail stores as well, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and RadioShack locations.

The first story will feature Xzavier Davis-Bilbo, who in 2010 was hit by a car driven by someone who was texting. Xzavier was 5 at the time and is now paralyzed from the waist down, AT&T said.

As part of the effort, mobile device makers HTC, Samsung and Pantech have agreed to preload the AT&T DriveMode application on phones for AT&T customers. The app can be used to temporarily disable the phone’s ability to display or compose text messages and email, and it can send automatic replies saying the user will write back later – when not on the road.

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