Randall L. Stephenson, chairman and chief executive of AT&T, spoke to hundreds of representatives, executives and investors at a conference Wednesday in San Francisco. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the state of the telecom business, but Stephenson instead began his speech with a request to raise awareness about distracted driving: “Please don’t drink and drive.”
During his speech, Stephenson expressed his disappointment in cell phone users and stated that the smartphone “is a product we sell and is being used inappropriately.” Although safety advocate groups are impressed with Stephenson’s public announcements, PA’s are historically relatively unsuccessful unless paired with strict laws, which is something Stephenson opposes. He says that he hopes that his announcements will spread awareness and spark a cultural change, and that he would prefer market-driven solutions rather than legislative ones. Conversely, Verizon Wireless supports state and federal legislation to ban texting while driving and began taking strides to raise this type of public awareness years ago.
AT&T has created a DriveMode app for Android and BlackBerry phones that automatically disables texting when the phone is traveling at a speed of more than 25 mph. The free app was launched on September 30, however there is no such app AT&T has designed for the popular iPhone. The app is part of a campaign called “It Can Wait,” which began in 2010, and is designed to remove the temptation of answering messages and phone calls while behind the wheel. Stephenson even admitted how hard it was for him to break the habit of touching his iPhone or BlackBerry while in the car.
Mr. Stephenson, the chairman of the FCC and the transportation secretary have called on people to take a lifelong pledge to not text and drive, as they tackle what is being called a “distracted driving epidemic.”