Saying that the smartphone "is a product we sell and it's being used inappropriately," AT&T chairman and chief executive Randall L. Stephenson is speaking out forcefully in efforts to curb the widespread and dangerous practice of texting while driving.
In doing so, he's scoring points from safety groups and advocates who aren't accustomed to seeing business moguls expend significant amounts of time and effort to drive home a message that is not directly related to the financial bottom line.
"I'm hopeful it will make consumers aware," says an insurance company executive, who emphasizes that the message needs to be coupled with strong and consistent law enforcement measures, a point that Stephenson -- who says he favors a market-based solution for changing consumers' behavior rather than legal coercion -- does not loudly endorse.
Currently, 39 states have a complete ban on texting while driving. New Jersey is one of them, with the activity being deemed a primary offense.
Despite the bans, though, stories of serious and often fatal car accidents directly attributed to texting continue to surface regularly across the country, with some evidence showing that the practice is actually increasing.
And thus the actions taken by Stephenson -- who regularly visits the topic at major meetings and conferences -- are welcomed by those who hope eventually that texting in vehicles will become a thing of the past.
Stephenson recently joined his name to safety efforts undertaken by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The trio is urging people to take a personal pledge to abstain completely from texting while driving throughout their lives.
Source: New York Times, "AT&T chief speaks out on texting at the wheel," Matt Richtel, Sept. 19. 2012
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