A recent New York Times article highlights a high-profile opponent of distracted driving here in Oregon and around the nation whose job might raise some eyebrows: he is the chairman and CEO of AT&T. As the newspaper notes, Randall Stephenson began his remarks at an investors’ conference last week with a plea to everyone in the audience not to text and drive.
“He’s been saying it a lot lately,” the paper continues, “at investor conferences, the annual shareholder meeting in April, town halls, civic club meetings, and in conversations with chief executives of other major companies.”
AT&T is not unique among cellphone companies in taking on this issue but, as the Times reports, Stephenson’s emphasis on it stands out both for its seriousness of purpose and for the personal nature of his story. “Mr. Stephenson said in an interview that a few years ago someone close to him caused an accident while texting,” the paper reports. The result has been a high profile anti-texting campaign by the company, one that the paper says has impressed even organizers focused on the broader issue of distracted driving as an advocacy and policy issue.
The AT&T chief’s remarks can sometimes be unusually pointed. He told the Times that the simple truth is both that internet-enabled phones are “a product that we sell and it’s being used inappropriately.” His answer: a “public awareness campaign” focused on changing users behavior. In addition, the article notes, AT&T is “no longer lobbying against laws aimed at curbing driver distraction caused by electronic devices.”
As an Oregon distracted driving lawyer it is heartening to see a cellphone company doing the right thing on this issue. Texting and driving is only one part of a much larger – and, arguably, growing, distracted driving problem here in Oregon and around the world. Measures such as the Oregon distracted driving law that went into effect nearly two years ago can only do so much to stop the practice. Ultimately, as AT&T understands, we all need to work to change people’s behavior in the interests of making our roads and highways safer for everyone.
New York Times: AT&T Chief Speaks Out on Texting at the Wheel