Q&A: rbb Public Relations Launches Internal Safe Driving Program

“Texting while driving” and other unsafe driving practices became a hot button topic in 2010. The issue arose again recently with a new AT&T documentary aimed at teens and a Facebook campaign and 10-city event series announced by Allstate.

Rbb Public Relations CEO and managing partner Christine Barney saw an accident caused by a driver who wasn’t paying attention to the road and decided to launch the “Never, Ever Initiative” for employees, asking them to minimize “distracted driving,” such as eating or multitasking while at red lights and stop signs. In addition, the firm is providing employees with Bluetooth, iTunes gift cards, and other perks to promote safe driving.

While the world is nonstop, she stressed that trying to multitask from the car isn’t the answer. “It’s not worth your life,” Barney told us. The policy is available on the rbb Public Relations blog and has been sent to clients and others.

Our Q&A with Barney is after the jump.

Why has the firm launched this initiative?

I’ve always been a very nervous driver. I came from Manhattan where I didn’t drive that much. And when I came to Florida, driving here is an experience. I’ve just noticed a lot more accidents, even in the news. It was just a few weeks ago that I was driving with an employee [and] we saw an accident happen right in front of us. We were moving in traffic, there was no light, there was no stop sign and the driver in front of us… wasn’t looking up and he just drove into the car in front of him.

Even if I couldn’t do something about it worldwide, I could start small and start within our agency and let people know that while we expect them to be responsive and [while] we know this is a 24-7 business, you have to use common sense about multitasking while driving. You can still be responsive and safe.

What we tried to do was similar to years ago with social media policies and you would share them and say “steal it, borrow it, use it.” We started sending around our policy [to] hopefully get more organizations to let their employees, friends, and families know that it’s more important to be safe than connected.

What are some of the tools that you’re helping your employees purchase? And what are some of the banned activities in the pledge?

There are several tools that are out there, a lot of them are various phone apps. We gave everyone iTunes gift cards, we even gave out iTunes gift cards to the first 10 people who took the pledge on our blog to get a SafeCell application.

Some people don’t think of multitasking the same way. It’s not just don’t surf the Web or e-mail or text. It also means be careful when you futz with your radio, plug in your iPod, [etc]. If your eyes are on the dashboard, they’re not on the road. Even eating and drinking. Our philosophy is if you have to do any of those things, pull over.

What is it about being distracted or texting while driving that makes it such a big issue today? It was a big issue some months ago and now it seems like it’s coming back.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has put out a lot of stats: it’s a factor in 25 percent of police reported crashes; it’s the number one source of driver inattention. The media has been helping too. I think it’s become so mainstream in the mindset of Americans and it’s growing as cell phone use and smartphone use grows. Teenagers who have never been known for their safe driving habits to begin with are being challenged with having all of these distractions in the car.

One of the good things about the way communication has evolved is that with the rise of social media, people are talking about these issues so they rise to the forefront more frequently. It’s definitely an issue that affects everyone.